I cope with the social world by reminding myself that billions of different perspectives of reality clash and combine in order to make our present, collective reality. Action and reaction, change and stasis. I’m not talking about nature, the world absent of human interaction. I have no trouble being alone and absorbing nature and natural process. I have immense trouble with manufactured social constraints and people’s coping mechanisms, their selfish reality bubbles. It’s hard to explain. Bear with me. The following is my own selfish reality bubble and my own coping mechanism.
People’s political views, religions, stances on social interaction, routine, tradition – these things that make up “culture” are lies that certain groups of people agree upon in order to make sense of a world that has no trouble existing without such views. The world continues despite people’s apocalyptic prophesy, or laws designed to better our society.
On the flip side, some views change nature dramatically because these views are forced and change human behavior, which in turn affects nature because there are no other options of action without punishment.
This brings me to Alice from Alice in Wonderland. She spends the entire book attempting to force her views on a world that has its own mechanics. She enters a world with a natural order and tries to change it so she can be comfortable. The more she tries to make a “mad” world “sane,” the more unhappy she gets. It’s not understanding the world that gets her down, it’s the rejection of her morals and significance that makes her miserable and angry. Alice attempts to control what she perceives as madness through her (our) world’s reason. The Red Queen claims control by force. It seems to me that The Red Queen even has domain over time. Do you think the citizens of Wonderland would adhere to something so banal as standardized time if it weren’t for the Queen lopping off heads?
Despite The Queen’s violence and Alice’s administering real world reason both Alice and the Queen fail in administering their brand of sanity on others. The things you believe may not be real even if a whole population believes in the same things by way of conformity or force. It’s obvious why the Queen’s values are wrong, but Alice’s logic is sound only in the waking world, our world, and it has no application in Wonderland. Both Alice and the Queen are manifestations of the real Alice, who has been dreaming of herself and the Red Queen for the whole book. Alice can’t even tame her own mind and while she is in Wonderland she is exasperated, frustrated, and furious. Once she wakes up, Alice is cool, calm, and collected. On a side note, isn’t it a trip that Alice is giving herself life lessons subconsciously?
Sometimes you have to wake up from your personal delusions in order to be happy. Unfortunately, it’s easier to keep dreaming and recruit others into your selfish reality bubble by way of convincing those more ignorant than you or by forcing those weaker than you. The kind of happiness created through lies uses people as fuel, and there are two types. Friends and enemies. Friends support your lie. Enemies destroy it. It’s important to have enemies. Enemies give you and your friends someone or thing to fight against, an entity that makes your lie take on solid proportions and gives your people a sense of power. As long as you are fighting an enemy you feel happy and real.
Here’s a litmus test for happiness: pretend you won your war. Look around. Do you still have friends and loved ones? Or are you alone and empty?
Wonderland is anarchy. Wonderland is your brain attempting to make sense of nature and people’s lies at the same time. This is why I have two prints of John Tenniel’s illustrations from Alice in Wonderland in my bathroom. As I prepare for my day I see these two prints. One is of the White Rabbit checking his pocket watch. This print helps me adjust my sense of time so it is in line with “everyone else” so I can meet friends and get to work, despite knowing full well that time is a lie we agree upon in order to coordinate actions.
(BTW: the philosophy and phrasing “a lie agreed upon” I stole from David Milch, creator of Deadwood and modern day mind-fucker. These lies are cultural phenomena or locally shared values that help humans live together. Time, religion, politics, base ten counting, the Metric system, words, etc. When you get opposing lies in close proximity you get violence, but on rare occasions compromise can also be found.)
The second print is of Alice sitting at the head of the table with the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, and the Door Mouse. Alice looks miserable. She’s slouched down in her arm chair, sulking. The Hatter and Hare are happy and active, shooting down all of Alice’s responses to their riddles. They even make a disgrace of time by buttering their watches. The more she tries to control The Mad Tea Party, the more happiness slips through her fingers. Alice cannot enjoy the moment because she cannot accept the values of others. She sits at the head of the table, but she has no power. It’s not that the others don’t grant her power or they are fighting back, it’s that her views of the world make her insignificant in Wonderland. Suddenly, Alice is the fool.
Imagine if Alice brought friends into Wonderland. It would have been a far different story. It would have been a bloodbath. In fact, The Red Queen is Alice if she were to wage war on Wonderland. Remember, Alice and The Red Queen are the same person because Alice is dreaming them both.
Alice would have been so much happier if she did what was best for her without trying to force her world on others. In Wonderland she is capable of making friends, finding food and drink, and locating shelter. She has all the tools for survival and socializing. She is capable of happiness in this strange world, but her other world values get in the way.
The illustration of The Mad Tea Party stops me from forcing my reality on others by reminding me how ignorant and helpless I become when I do so. It helps me keep an open mind. It helps me ask questions and understand. Most importantly, The Mad Tea Party reminds me that if I’m angry it means that I am holding on to something that probably isn’t real.