Thinking Inside the Box – Alice in Wonderland

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When Alice went down the rabbit hole she discovered an inside-out world where beliefs considered stable like space, place, time, past, present and memory became elastic.

The author, Lewis Carroll, was an accomplished mathematician and logician, so he structured the bizarre universe of Wonderland on two rational principles:

  1. There is an internal logic that is consistent.  Although absurd, once he established the mutability of time, place, past and present, the story develops within this paradigm.

    Although Alice says, these things are “curious and curiouser”, they reflect much of what we are learning today through the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, and the recognition that Newton’s laws don’t always apply to particle physics and cosmology.  In these states, things turn “spooky”.

  2. Alice in Wonderland does not postulate impossibles, like a square circle, but speaks of improbables like cats growing on trees, highly improbable, but who knows?

Would we be more creative if we played with an idea outside the stable normal concepts of space, place, time, past, present and memory?

Considering the repetitive advice to “think outside the box” maybe we should rethink the box and how we fit into it.

Did Alice become larger or the room smaller?



Take for example the Mad Hatter in the image above, who was trapped in a never-ending tea party where he was sentenced to death for singing to the Queen of Hearts but he escaped because Time froze him at 6:00 PM forever.  


In another incident the Mad Hatter is in trouble with the law and probably not guilty but the White Queen explains that sometimes subjects are punished before they commit a crime, not after, and sometimes they are sentenced for crimes they never committed.


Then there is the incident of the jam.  As a benefit for working for the Queen, Alice gets, “. . . jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam today.”  

In a just published book by two Stanford Professors, Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, they use design techniques, described as constantly reframing the problems encountered to arrive at a destination not initially clear.  They avoid the impossibles and consider the improbables.  Just like Alice.







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