I decided to do something a little different this time and voice record my poem. Listening to myself, hearing my own writing, changed the way I perceived my own words. I would encourage you to try it some time. And when you do, let me know what you think.
This is my first attempt at writing a children’s story based off the characters from “Alice in Wonderland”. I would love to hear your thoughts.
Reading time: 10 minutes
“Order! Order! Order in the court,” yells the restless judge with the rainbow colored robe and the purple top hat. “Mr. Rabbit, please, can you explain why we’re all here.”
“Yes, sir. Right away, sir,” says the jumpy lawyer with the white fur and pocket watch. “We are here today, your honor,” he states, as his hand sweeps over the courtroom, revealing all the people of Wonderland, “we are here to charge the Cheshire Cat as being an absolute failure.”
“Failure?” asks the mad judge, as if it is a word he’s never heard before. “Prey tell, what is a failure?”
“It is someone who has not contributed any meaningful words or actions to society. Someone who hasn’t amounted to anything, and never will.” The prosecutor’s tone is firm. He glances at his watch, as if he has another important meeting to attend.
“Can you please be a little more specific, Mr Rabbit?” the judge asks, looking displeased. “Is someone who is not as smart as everyone else a failure? Or someone who is not as rich as everybody else? And, I suppose, while we’re at it, you might as well tell us what it means to win, too?”
The White Rabbit is oddly at a loss for words. He didn’t expect the Mad Hatter to have so many questions. He thinks for a moment before speaking.
“A failure, your Honor, is someone who is a waste of space. He does nothing to advance his story. You win when you play an important role in the story, and you lose when nobody can understand why you even exist.”
The people in the courtroom start gossipping in hushed tones, discussing the value of various characters from Wonderland, while silently weighing the worth of their own words and actions in the story.
“How,” the judge begins, after a few thuds of his gavel, “how can you be a waste of space when your role doesn’t simply revolve around what you do, but also upon who you are. Everybody has worth, Mr. Rabbit. At least, the author of our story certainly thought so. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have existed in the first place.” The Mad Hatter sits back in his chair looking unusually wise, hands interlocked, index fingers tapping together.
“So do you mean to say, your Honor, that the Cheshire Cat can just go on giving that silly smile while still not DOING anything?” Rabbit looks aghast.
“Who knows?” says the judge, shrugging his rainbow-colored shoulders. “Only the author knows what the cat – indeed, what any of us – will do.”
The room is silent, half the people of Wonderland thinking about the judge’s words, while the other half wonder how the Mad Hatter has suddenly become so smart. As if in response to their thoughts, the judge suddenly bursts into nervous laughter. Throughout the proceedings, he had noticed Rabbit kept glancing at his watch.
“Do you have somewhere you need to be, Mr. Rabbit? Please don’t let us keep you.” The Hatter smiles, without a trace of sarcasm in his voice.
“Your honor, forgive me. I’m in quite a rush. I have another client to represent soon.”
“Of course, of course,” says the genial judge. “We wouldn’t want you to be late, now would we?”
The rabbit hops off his seat and trots down the aisle of the courtroom towards the exit. The residents of Wonderland erupt in confused murmurs.
“Order! Order, please,” says the judge, as if he is inviting everyone over for tea. “Well, now, Mr. Cat,” says the judge with a mischievous smile, looking in the general direction of the accused. “How do you plead?”
Suddenly, the cat, who up until now had been invisible, appears in his bright pink glory with a self-satisfied smile arching across his face.
“My lawyer will represent me, your honor.”
Suddenly, the doors of the courtroom slam wide open, as the Cheshire Cat’s lawyer makes a grand entrance. It is none other than the White Rabbit, making his way down the aisle, as if he is a very important man of heft. One foot pounds the floor, then the other, like a cowboy ready to start a shoot-out. When he makes it to the seat beside the cat, he hops on and says, “We plead Not Guilty, sir.”
“Well, I never…,” chuckles the judge. “What is going on here? You cannot fight the case for AND against Cheshire Cat, Mr. Rabbit.”
The courtroom can tell the judge is trying very hard to sound serious, but is really more tickled than tart.
“Why are you presenting both sides of the case, Rabbit? This is really not how the whole courtroom thing works – at least, I don’t think it is. I have only been judge for a day now.” The Hatter looks highly perplexed, indeed.
“Because, your honor,” begins Rabbit, “it is entirely possible to have two different ways of looking at the same issue. Whereas I personally DO believe Cheshire is a useless character indeed…no offense, to you,” Rabbit nods towards Cheshire, who shrugs his shoulders as if no offense has been taken, “the readers still seem to love him. They want to play with his pink fur and mirror his unholy smile. They giggle when he suddenly pops up out of nowhere, and wish they could vanish just as stealthily as he.” Upon hearing of all the cat’s virtues, the people of Wonderland start nodding in agreement, thinking, yes, it’s quite true, Cheshire IS a cool cat. Cheshire’s smile seems to widen, indeed, beyond even the confines of his furry face.
“And to have the love of the people,” Rabbit continues, “well…there is really nothing like it…” As his voice trails off, Rabbit starts looking more and more unhappy. Barely audible, he says, “I believe even I have never felt a love like that. It makes me wonder.” Rabbit gets lost in his own reverie.
“It makes you wonder what, Rabbit?” The judge is on the edge of his seat.
“Well, it makes me wonder,” Rabbit responds, “if Cheshire is a winner for being so loved, well then, am I the one who’s a failure?”
The crowd draws in a collective gasp.
“Half my mind says yes, I have failed in so many things,” continues Rabbit, “like how I failed to guide Alice properly, or to be a cute and cuddly rabbit because I preferred to, well…be myself.” Rabbit kept talking, as if to no one in particular. “The other half says no, the things I do still matter. But if someone can accuse Cheshire Cat of failing, certainly they might do the same to me one day, as well.”
Rabbit continues to look downcast, as Cheshire remains silent and gleeful as ever.
“I’m sorry, your honor. I’m sorry to have wasted your time.”
“Nonsense, Rabbit!” The judge swats his hand from side to side as if shooing away a pesky fly. “The mind is quite a silly thing, isn’t it? You must learn to give it a rest from time to time. Just turn it off, like I do.”
At this, the Mad Hatter jumps up from his seat and starts to dance. “See? Once you start moving, your body will tell your mind to be quiet.” The judge stumbles and bumbles around in what seems to be his version of a dance, receiving curious stares from the audience. Eventually, he exhausts himself, and slumps back into his chair, breathing heavily.
“Oh me, oh my!” he says, wiping the sweat off his forehead with a bright pink handkerchief that magically materializes from the folds of his cape. “Where were we? Oh yes. You were apologizing for wasting my time. Well, Rabbit,” the Hatter leans forward, as if he is about to share a big secret. “If there is no such thing as a waste of space, there is certainly no such thing as a waste of time.”
The Hatter stands up again with a flourish of his hand, as if ready to perform a magic trick.
“What time is it, you ask?” he cocks his ear up, as if hearing an invisible voice. Upon receiving nothing but a blank look from Rabbit, he repeats, more firmly this time, “What time is it, you ask?”
Rabbit nervously looks at his pocket watch. “Y-y-your honor,” he stammers. “It’s 3:15 in the afternoon.”
“Wrong!” the Hatter bellows, shocking the entire room, even waking up those people who’d begun to doze off.
“The time,” he says, more gently, “is now.”
“S-s-sir? But it’s 3:15, your honor. Just look at my watch.” Rabbit holds it up for inspection.
“Rabbit,” the judge begins, as if talking to a little child. “If you had asked me what time it was this morning, I would have said, the time is now. If you ask me again in the evening, I’ll say, the time is now. My answer will always be the same – the time is now.”
“Tell me, Rabbit?” asks the judge. “Are you done making your case for and against Cheshire Cat?”
“Yes, sir. I have nothing more to add. Except, maybe, that now it’s 3:16.” He holds up his watch again, nervously.
The Mad Hatter glares at Rabbit, then ignores him completely, getting ready to address the entire courtroom.
“Then I am ready with my verdict.”
Many of the attendees inch closer to the edge of their seats, in anticipation of the judge’s pronouncement.
“Here is my judgment – I find Cheshire Cat not guilty of being a failure. He is, and he is, and he is. And for that, he is loved. That is all that matters.” The judge is emphatic. “At the same time,” he says, loudly, in order to be heard over both the booing and cheering of the crowd, “at the same time, I find him, and all the people of Wonderland, very, very guilty.”
The crowd gasps.
“Of what, your honor?” asks the Rabbit in surprise.
The Mad Hatter looks serious for a moment, the way he imagines a judge should look, before breaking out into a mischievous grin.
“Why, of being such wonderful people, of course!”
The crowd is stunned. Some people hesitantly smile, while others remain quizzical.
“Yes, that’s right!” Hatter continues. “Even you, your Highness,” pointing to a very unhappy Queen of Hearts, sitting at the front of those people who were against Cheshire Cat. “And you, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum,” pointing to the twin brothers sitting in support of Cheshire Cat. “Even you are wonderful, White Rabbit. And might I say, quite beloved. Why, I am very lucky to know you.” The Hatter bows in Rabbit’s direction, as Rabbit blushes.
The people’s confusion suddenly transforms into joy and they erupt into cheers. What an utterly marvelous verdict!
“You see? You see?” The Hatter claps, merrily. “When you learn the truth, you feel so happy. You forget why you were upset to begin with. I mean, I can’t even remember what this trial was for.”
“A-a-actually…,” Rabbit raises his hand and starts to remind him, but the whooping and back-slapping elation of the crowd drowns him out.
Once things have quieted down, the Hatter hammers his gavel to get everyone’s attention.
“Order! Order in the court!” The expression on his face has gone back to being serious. “I must admit something to you all,” he says, looking a tad bit nervous. “I, too, am guilty.”
“Of being a wonderful person, your honor?” someone shouts from the benches.
“Yes, that, too,” Hatter says, as if it is the most obvious fact in the world. “But mainly, I’m guilty…” he says in an exaggeratedly forlorn voice that slowly transitions into a joyful exclamation, “of forgetting to invite you all to tea!” He jumps up, clapping his hands in excitement, then dramatically rips off his rainbow-colored cape, only to reveal a rainbow-colored suit beneath it.
“What time exactly, sir?” asks the Rabbit, unsure of how to respond to this rather unusual turn of events. “What time is tea time?”
“The time is now, Rabbit,” Hatter winks. “The time is always now.”
Whenever I danced for my audience,
I received cheers and hearty applause.
That sound filled my heart with untold joy.
I felt like I was living for a cause.
For as long as I can remember,
I’ve belonged solely to my trainer.
He was strict when I needed discipline,
tested me till my act was a no-brainer.
And when I performed well, which I always did,
he’d reveal his softer side,
presenting me with the choicest treats,
petting me publicly with pride.
You see, I am a dancing bear.
I’ve always lived to please.
At first, my trainer kept me caged,
until he trusted I wouldn’t flee.
As I grew bigger in size,
less flexible and friendly-seeming,
he left me to my own devices,
found others to trap in his dreaming.
It was the first time I thought,
if I could no longer perform or please,
then who was I, really?
My trainer simply taunted and teased.
He made me feel unwanted, worthless.
One day, he flew into a rage so great,
I clawed and cowered in trembling despair,
before planning my stealthy escape.
I ran and ran for miles,
no direction or planned destination.
One morning, I woke in a grassy knoll,
the sun embracing me in salutation.
Despite having no clue what I should do,
in that moment, I finally understood,
this was a chance to live my life anew,
in as honest a way as I could.
Over the months and years that followed,
pure love blossomed from within.
When next, I came across my old trainer,
all I could do was mildly grin.
Now, I only felt sorry for him,
but immensely grateful, too,
were it not for his abominable actions,
I wouldn’t have discovered You –
the real audience for my deeds,
the One I was truly meant to please.
I’m a prisoner in my own mind
sentenced to a life of despair,
and the only one able to save me
is behind bars, too.
For years, I longed for a savior –
an attentive parent,
an inspiring mentor,
a romantic partner.
For years, I waited.
People came and people went,
but not one of them could save me.
Because the only one able to save me
is behind bars, too.
She has the keys to our freedom,
but not quite the strength.
She knows that I love her,
but my love is weak.
We’ve spent so many years apart,
walled off from each other
because I abandoned her,
but only to protect her.
What good was our bond if it had only caused pain?
So she turned her back on me,
and I on her.
Doesn’t matter that we were stuck in the same cell,
the walls between us of our own making.
All these years later,
I turn to face her.
She’s the only one who can save us,
if only she could muster the will.
I’m begging her to unlock the prison door,
and set us free.
Let us live as one,
in this perfect human body,
with this identity that, together, we can sculpt to our liking.
Let’s forget the past
and not dwell on the future,
but just experience each moment as it comes,
with nothing but love for each other,
with nothing but gratitude for our oneness,
with nothing but grace and contentment in our heart.
She reluctantly turns towards me
and points to something in my hand.
I had the key to our freedom all along.
When I look to the prison bars,
all I see is a curtain of wild flowers intertwined with leafy vines,
sunlight peaking in through the gaps.
We hold hands,
lift up the curtain together,
and walk into the beautiful landscape
of the unknown.
We saved ourselves.
And who knows?
Maybe we are the savior in someone else’s story, too.
Five years ago, I started a now inactive blog called “A Storyed Sensibility”. This is a slightly edited re-post of a blog from that site. It still resonates with me today, and I hope it will with you, too. Please share your thoughts below after you’ve read it.
Many of us spend the first two decades of our lives in fear. We are taught by our families to fear God, to be on our best behavior in order to avoid punishment, be it in the pits of hell or behind the palms of our parents’ hands. We’re told to fear falling behind in school and getting bad grades because otherwise, we won’t get into a good college. And if we don’t get into a good college, our future is screwed. We won’t get a decent job, no one will want to marry us, and we’ll spend the rest of our days poor, alone, and miserable. Also, we better make sure we fit in with the masses, because standing out will make us seem different, and different is always bad.
Of course, as you grow into young adulthood, many of the beliefs you once held to be true take the form of the myths they really are. You realize standing out can be a positive thing. It makes you unique. Being different adds richness and diversity to the world. And getting a high salaried office job is not the comfort you once thought it would be. In fact, you’re miserable in your career, despite having more money than you need, and all you want is to feel happy and alive. Short term goals like losing weight and getting that promotion don’t necessarily lead to happiness. And the high of having a glossy magazine-worthy wedding will only last so long; it won’t replace the fissures in your relationship.
A lot of people spend an excessive amount of time in this Jaded Zone, saying things like:
“Life isn’t all it’s knocked up to be.”
“I’m just another cog in the machine.”
“God? Which God? If there was a God, the world wouldn’t be as messed up as it is right now.”
I know this, because I’ve been there. And, every so often, I cycle back to this Jaded Zone.
After a series of random moments of clarity, though, over the course of the last three years, I have come to believe that if you are sincerely in search of the truth, you will eventually find it. In fact, it will be revealed to you.
Each person’s journey is different; their goalposts won’t necessarily match up, but they’ll all eventually arrive at the same truth. It might be an overnight revelation for some, and a life-long struggle for others. For me, it was the year I turned 36; everything changed. I’d been searching for so long, trying to answer all these complex existential questions like, who am I, where is home, what is my mission, why am I so miserable, and why isn’t God responding to me.
What I didn’t realize until then was that He’d been communicating with me all along. I just didn’t have the tools I’d needed to be aware of it. I’d been blind even though I had eyes to see; I’d been deaf though I had ears to hear; and I’d been dumb, despite the fact that, as a member of the most complex species in the world, I had a brain. I’d just been focusing on all the wrong things.
The truth is so simple it hurts. It hurts because I see now how far the world has drifted away from it. And the effort to unmask this worldly façade feels almost futile.
The truth is: we are One. Like the different parts of a body, we can only work effectively, if we work together. If I stab my left hand with my right, it doesn’t help the rest of my body in any way. The health of the entire body, the entire human race, can only be assured, if it extends to everyone.
We are each unique and beautiful in our own way. There is a little piece of God in each of us, and yet we waste so much time worrying that we’re not pretty, or we’re too fat, or we’re unworthy of anyone’s love. Would you ever say God is ugly? Would you ever say God is fat? If, indeed, you believe in God, and you imagine him in the same manner you might imagine Santa Clause – gentle and loving, full of affection, wagging his finger to those kids who’ve been naughty, lavishing gifts on those kids who’ve been nice – then would you ever think him unworthy of love? I don’t think so.
Even if you don’t believe in God, surely you believe there is some kind of Universal Energy or Power which controls the cycles of nature. Do you think that Energy cares if we are rich or poor? Do you think it makes distinctions between which houses are too opulent to be ruined by hurricanes, and which are too spare?
If we can recognize the beauty in each one of us, and forget about the really useless issues, like which designer bag we can afford, or why he/she isn’t returning our calls, then maybe we can move on with the next step in our lives. To put it in mathematical terms,
God’s love = brotherly love = self love
We know it’s important to love God. We’ve been taught to love our fellow man. But what we hardly hear is the importance of loving ourselves. Of respecting our bodies. Of trusting our intuition. And of treasuring our gifts.
Once we realize just how important we are, so much so that God thought us worthy of being created and put on this Earth, we can move ahead with the business of trying to figure out why we’re here. What is our mission? Because I’m pretty sure it isn’t just to break our backs making money and then spending it all to live in empty comfort. Each of us is here for a different reason. And what I’m starting to believe is that God only reveals your path if you are truly searching for it. The internal struggle, the curiosity, the desire to ‘do more’ and ‘be more’ – that’s a pre-requisite.
The lucky ones among us may have been hearing this message from Day One. Perhaps their parents were already enlightened. Most of us, though, have parents who’ve had their own struggles in life; they weren’t necessarily able to lift themselves out of their troubles long enough to realize what was what. But today, everything is different. The world is smaller than it’s ever been before. We’re more connected than ever, and it doesn’t take a genius to realize that we’re all in this together. We can either all spectacularly fail together, or we can slowly plod our way to progress.
All it takes is a bit of reflection. If we can shut our Netflix for long enough, and stop taking selfies, if we can stop scrolling through Instagram and playing video games for long enough, we might just be able to experience this truth. That we are all One. And submitting to God is only as good as your ability to submit to each other. That love comes in all forms, shapes and sizes. And it is a far better unifier than hate.
We are far from destroyed. We need not be disheartened. We have only to treat each other the way we want to be treated. There’s a reason they call it the Golden Rule. We have only to continue our education insofar as it helps us to learn more about how the world works. We have only to bask in the awe of how different we all are and to focus on the reality of how similar we all are. We have only to be our best selves; to be good to our families, friends, and neighbors; to learn what our missions are and how we can utilize our talents towards those missions; to stand up for the truth; and to spread the message of Oneness. We have only to love each person on this planet, no matter how wretched or saintly, because God considered each one of them worthy of Creation. We have only to fight our own demons, be they negativity, addiction, envy, rage, or fear. We have only to try. And to keep trying. And to try even harder, yet fall countless times, only to get up and try again.
And we have only one life in which to do it.