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The Big Picture

December 2, 2009

Ok, so this is most likely my last post so I wanted to talk about my opinions of the story after analyzing it for weeks and weeks. If I could have summed up all my opinions of the book in one post, this would be it.

I don’t think the story was written with a purpose. Although there does seem to be a bit of hinting at meanings, it is so vague that it could be interpreted as pretty much anything. If you believe that the book means something, then good for you, I’m not going to say you are wrong, because you are not. There is no “right answer”. We are massively over-thinking and over-complicating this simple thing, a children’s story.

Think about this: are we thinking about this stuff in the story like we are just because it’s a school project, or is it because you actually think that?

If I had to guess, I would say that the answer is “no” for most people.

When you are reading something outside of an academic environment, do you think like you do when reading at school? Of course not. Most of us found meanings in the story because we wanted/had to for a project. It is not just maturity that forces us to butcher stories like this, but it is this notion that we have get something out of everything we read, at least in a learning environment. It is completely illogical for us to be focusing on a story like this. We are just doing this because we do not understand what it is about, but what we can’t seem to wrap our brains around is the fact that there is nothing to understand in the first place! We are studying this extremely simple thing, and trying to make sense of it in our minds, but it is so simple that we just don’t get it. It’s like in movies when all the scientists are crowded around some simple object, and they think it is some super complex thing, but they don’t realize it. It is also like when there is a puzzle or problem solving, and you are thinking up all these complex solutions, and then you look up the answer, and you see how simple it is.

As they say, the devil is in the details. The entire thing is nothing but a simple story, but we are simply thinking too hard about it.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 2, 2009 1:02 pm

    Michael, your point about reading for purpose, and reading at school vs. outside of the academic environment, is germane. We can all point to myriad examples cynical, “schooly” exercises, going through the motions for a grade. But I think you’ve missed the larger point, and by a mile. There are many, many people out there (out here, I should say) in the wide world—true readers and writers—who DO “think about stuff” when they read, people for whom reading isn’t an empty exercise but an opportunity to think, learn, and grow, a seeking of understanding.

    Step back for a second, and take an open-eyed look at how Mr. Long envisioned, designed, and executed this entire project. Would you really file the Alice Project in the “Empty Exercise in Dull Schooliness” category?

    I’d argue that he made every effort—including opening the project’s doors to interested folks beyond your classroom, people like me—to make this as authentic and unschooly an experience as possible. By dismissing it as an empty exercise, you take the easy out. You lightly excuse yourself from what is ultimately that most human of responsibilities: to try to understand and make sense of the world and our experience of it and in it.

    Your comment:

    “…what we can’t seem to wrap our brains around is the fact that there is nothing to understand in the first place!”

    Maybe so, maybe not.

    But how does anyone find out without a good, effort-full attempt to wrap their brains around the question? Mysteries abound in life. Reality (and fictions) can be inscrutable, frustratingly opaque, resistant to easy answers or simple interpretation. Civilizations and faith traditions have struggled for centuries with questions of what we know, what we don’t know, how we know we know and don’t know, and what sense to make of it all.

    Sometimes the greatest insights are discovered through apparent illogic; Google “koan.” There’s often more to the story than logic or rationality can tell.

  2. Matt Langdon permalink
    December 2, 2009 12:27 pm

    Terry Pratchett agrees with you. Look him up:

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