In 1865, British author Lewis Carroll wrote what was to become the iconic novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In the story, a young girl named Alice falls through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world of anthropomorphic creatures. One of the main characters, The White Rabbit, appears at the beginning of chapter one, wearing a waistcoat, and mutters, “oh dear! oh dear! I shall be too late!” Alice follows him down the rabbit hole and finds herself in Wonderland, a fantastical world.
There have been countless explanations as to the meaning and metaphor of The White Rabbit’s presence in this narrative, however it is generally accepted that following The White Rabbit provides Alice with an alternative path which will ultimately help her release her fears and prosper in life. This journey eventually affects her survival and happiness on earth. The symbolism of The White Rabbit has come to represent a journey which will carry us through the path of our own fears and anxieties, and leads us to a quest of knowledge and mystery, ultimately leading us to the other side where we can embark on a spiritual pursuit.
The White Rabbit in Carroll’s imagination was highly anxious and always worrying about time and being late. He also inadvertently became Alice’s guide through Wonderland.
For nearly two years, the entire human population has been living with a once-in-a-century pandemic that has killed millions of people, and for the most part, has altered our perception of normalcy and safety in the everyday certainties we had previously taken for granted. Additionally, our perception of “time” has been distorted. In essence, humanity has fallen down a rabbit hole. No matter our age, we have been deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our realities have been distorted which has created fear and deep anxiety. Just as Alice had to navigate her way through Wonderland and develop new perspectives, we have to re-emerge from the pandemic with renewed senses of wonderment and light. We have all been so very serious. (Remember the toilet paper fears and wiping down of your groceries?)
“The White Rabbit’s message to us is no matter how dark or daunting the path, we can be engaged in the mystery and wonderments that surround us every day.”
Just as The White Rabbit appeared to provide Alice an alternative path, we need to find new guides within ourselves to release our fears and prosper again in our lives; finding new meanings and sources of joy and enchantment. The White Rabbit’s message to us is no matter how dark or daunting the path, we can be engaged in the mystery and wonderments that surround us every day. Watching children’s wide-eyed astonishment at the world around them can be beacons to remind us of the miracle of living. I remember when my granddaughter was around 1 year old and we were walking in the woods. She suddenly looked up, lifting her little arms with glee and repeatedly shouted, “trees,” her eyes lit up with joy and wonder.
Unaware of life’s troubles, she was totally in the moment. We need to allow ourselves to find glee in the simplest aspects of life. We need to laugh and be silly. We need to reconnect with social bonds, which may have frayed during lockdowns. We need to trust our intuitions. We need to follow The White Rabbit’s path into new beginnings and experiences. Just as Alice evolved during her journey into knowing more of who she was, we need to reflect on how the past few years have revealed to us who we each are, honoring our strengths and resiliencies. We need to assess which of the patterns we have relied on are working and which we’d like to discard. Only then can we overcome ways of being which prevent us from finding greater joy and meaning in our lives.
“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields and kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, ‘Go to sleep darlings, til summer comes again.’”
– Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
A synonym for wonderment is “rapt attention and deep emotion caused by the sight of something extraordinary.” We have collectively been astonished by the enormity of the pandemic’s impact on our experiences these past few years. Instead of being weighed down by fear and disenchantment, as we traverse new landscapes, we must invite fun and curiosity and keep moving forward.
We need to focus on being vibrant, alive, and present in our world and in our lives. As Alice exclaimed during her journey, “There is no use going back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” There isn’t a person on earth who has not been affected and deeply changed by the pandemic. We all had to slow down and accept that our perception of time has been distorted.
Collectively, we acknowledged in many cases, just as The White Rabbit acknowledged, “the hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” We need to remember this concept and seek an enchantment in everyday life. Hopefully, like Alice, we will emerge from the rabbit hole of these past few years with more confidence, happiness, and wonderment!