Finding Wonderland: A Father’s Journey Into Taylor Swift’s Lyrical Rabbit Hole
There’s nothing quite like the electrifying atmosphere of a Taylor Swift concert—a sentiment my daughter, like thousands of other teenagers, wholeheartedly agrees with. After an exuberant 15-minute rundown of her recent concert experience, she mentioned a song that caught my ear: “Wonderland.”
Now, I’ve never been a Swiftie, but what intrigued me was the song’s heavy allusion to “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” a subject I’ve always found fascinating. I promised my daughter I would write about it, so here goes my attempt to delve into the depths of Taylor Swift’s lyrical genius through the lens of Lewis Carroll’s whimsical world.
It’s All About the Metaphor
“Wonderland,” a bonus track on Taylor Swift’s fifth studio album, “1989,” is a fascinating study in the whirlwind of emotions one experiences during the ups and downs of a complicated relationship. My daughter claims that the “unnamed, green-eyed man” in question is none other than Harry Styles. Though it’s never explicitly mentioned in the song, she’s quite adamant. But let’s move past the speculative “Harry” narrative to explore the more exciting labyrinth—the All Things Alice.
Through the Rabbit Hole
The song captures the essence of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” remarkably well. It’s a story about navigating the chaos of an exhilarating yet toxic relationship, metaphorically described as a tumble down a rabbit hole. This is brilliant on Swift’s part, capturing the highs, lows, and general madness Alice encounters in her own nonsensical reality.
Why It Works
Lewis Carroll’s work has always encapsulated a child’s challenge in making sense of an adult world—something that Taylor Swift echoes in her lyrics. “It’s all fun and games ’till somebody loses their mind,” she sings, a sentiment that Alice would likely agree with were she dealing with toxic relationships instead of a confusing, alternate universe.
Breaking Down the Lyrics
Taylor Swift is a master of infusing her lyrics with metaphors and references that can easily be unpacked. For instance, the opening lines about “flashing lights” and “taking a wrong turn” aptly describe how easy it is to get entangled in a fast-paced relationship, much like how Alice finds herself in Wonderland. And Taylor’s question, “Haven’t you heard what becomes of curious minds?” directly echoes Alice’s own realization that her curiosity leads her into some tricky situations.
More than Just Lyrics: A Deeper Dive into Wonderland
Also, it’s worth noting that Harry Styles is from Cheshire, a point that’s hard to overlook when considering the Cheshire Cat references throughout the song. My daughter, the young detective that she is, insists that this detail is more than coincidental. Yet, because nothing is explicitly said, we can’t definitively conclude that the song is about him.
“We Both Went Mad”
In the song’s bridge, Taylor Swift sings, “And in the end, in Wonderland, we both went mad.” The line is a clear nod to one of the most iconic quotes from “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”: “We’re all mad here.” In Lewis Carroll’s story, madness isn’t a condition to be feared; it’s a form of maturation.
It’s quite possible that Taylor Swift is referencing the same concept of “going mad” as a sort of coming-of-age realization that their exciting yet tumultuous relationship is unsustainable. Alternatively, she might be taking creative liberties with the concept of “madness,” suggesting that the relationship spiraled out of control, driving both parties to emotional extremes.
What Does It All Mean?
In a poignant turn, Swift later compares the Cheshire Cat’s enigmatic smile to the comfort she derived from her partner’s own mysterious grin. Whether this smile is genuinely comforting or mischievously deceptive is left for the listener to decide.
The Everlasting Impact of Alice
As the song winds down, it leaves us with a repetition of the chorus, capturing the unending loop of emotions, much like Alice’s adventures. Whether you’re a Swiftie or not, the song brilliantly utilizes the metaphorical elements of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” paying homage to a story that continues to captivate audiences over a century and a half after its publication.
A Lesson in Effective Storytelling
Whether you’re a fan of Taylor Swift or not, there’s no denying the lyrical prowess she exhibits in “Wonderland.” Much like how Lewis Carroll’s tale has transcended generations, Swift’s song captures the complexity of adult relationships in a manner that resonates with a wide-ranging audience, myself included. And for that, I thank my daughter for introducing me to this musical treasure, as I discover that even in middle age, one can still fall down an unexpected rabbit hole and find something magical at the bottom.
Alice has been an enduring muse for various forms of art, from literature to music, and it’s evident that her influence isn’t waning anytime soon. As someone who appreciates both classic literature and the nuances of modern storytelling, I’m thrilled that Alice in Wonderland continues to inspire.
Imagination Part Two: Wonderland Beginnings
Imagine a world of blind people. They can feel warmth, but not see light. Days and nights would just be warm times and cool times. As science on this world advanced, there would be a realization that warmth has a source, the sun, which rises and sets. A mysterious, invisible disk whose motions control warm times and cool times.
The Earth’s sun provides our world with energy, fueling change and life, but what if Earth has a second, hidden star? A star whose changes are not effected in space and time, but in higher dimensions? A star whose radiance, whose glow does not create changes in matter and motion, but changes in consciousness. A physical generator of ideas, a fountainhead of imagination. An invisible wonderland whose warmth can be felt the most open and gifted, but remains unknown and beyond the understanding of people who are blind to the glow.
Many planets orbit the Sun, and there are many planets bathed in the glow of Wonderland. What would we do if one planet tried to take the sun’s light and heat for itself? What if Martians revealed themselves and tried to drain all the sun’s energy leaving the earth cold and dead? There would be one choice: war. And this is what happened in Wonderland.
The Hearts were the first to reach Wonderland, and discovered a particular crystal, now known as the Heart Crystal, could be used to channel and control the glow of Wonderland. The disruption and eventual cessation of the Glowflow led scientists and artists on three other worlds to discover and invade Wonderland. The Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, and Spades struggles for years in a fantastic war of imagination, conjuring creatures out of dream and nightmare.
Eventually, saner heads then the discoverers prevailed and established peace between the creative leaders of the 4 worlds. A city was established around the Heart Crystal and a keeper of the crystal was selected. The crystals energy most easily communicated with women, so women were selected as the crystal keepers. They also functioned as leaders of those who has taken up residence in Wonderland, and eventually became known as Queens of Wonderland.
Those who wanted to darken the outer worlds and hold all the creative power for themselves in Wonderland continued to plot and scheme and became known as the followers of Dark Imagination. Those who wanted to protect the Glowflow to the outer worlds became known as the followers of White Imagination. The 4 Houses, descendants of the most gifted leaders of the 4 Worlds continue to rule Wonderland selecting a queen from amongst themselves.
Followers of White Imagination believe that ideas are discovered, not invented. As a result the followers of White Imagination are more passive, and value preservation, compassion, and generosity. They trust the patterns have a purpose, a good purpose, and prefer to let things work themselves out rather than intervene. –
They are individualists, but still place great value on tradition as something to be learned from, not imitated. Communication and society are ways to share pieces of the pattern and anyone can contribute something to deepening and strengthening both understanding and creativity. You never know where the next good idea will be found.
Dark Imagination derives from the belief that ideas are invented, not discovered. The followers of Dark Imagination value the power to transform and control, and are aggressive and destructive. If the universe is just random rearrangements without any special meaning or purpose, then the only meaning or purpose in life is to extend and project your ideas as far and as long as possible. Conflict, violence, and destruction are valuable tools for identifying the best and most powerful ideas.
The Heart Crystal projects the ideas of Wonderlands. This means the personality and values of the ruling queen are cast into the hearts and minds of the people on the outer worlds.
A queen’s personality can even survive the death of the queen herself. In between the worlds, somewhere in the Glowflow, ghostly remnants of the queens continue to survive and remember and inspire, reflecting and refracting the glow of crystal into the particular on whose edge they dwell.
These ghostly queens are known as Watchers. The Watchers of Earth reside in two bubbles in the Glowflow.
The White Imagination Watchers have created what appears to be a castle on a forested mountain, with waterfalls and streams flowing out of the peak. The sky is filled with astronomical images that put the Hubble to shame, nebulas and galaxies, and the worlds with 3 rings all large enough to see. These radiant objects are the manifestations of the glow from the Heart Crystal. In the center of the tower, growing out of a pool is a tree of gold and silver whose leaves gather and collect the glow of the Heart Crystal.
When the leaves fall and drift down to mountain, wildflowers spring up where they land. The tree bears fruit rich with pure imagination, which sustains the queens in their afterlife. It can also grow weapons and told which the queens can provide to champions, called Walkers who act as their agents on Earth, promoting their values and inventions. Occasionally, earthlings lost in forests or diving from waterfalls find their way to the mountain.
The Dark Watchers dwell in Splinterscape, an island in an underground cavern filled with broken glass. In the center of the island is a tower of thorns standing above a fiery pit. The pit draws in pieces of the sea of shards and reforges them into long ribbons of glass that harden and rise and branch out over the island.
Eventually, their weight becomes too much and the ends break off and return to the sea of shards. The roof of the cavern is like a geode which thick long colored crystals, glowing with the radiance of the Heart Crystal. This creative light feeds the tree which bears fruit of pure dark imagination. The Dark Queens also bestow gifts to their Walkers, although their boons often consume and destroy the recipient. People in caves, sewers, and tombs sometimes stumble into Splinterscape.
Some White Watchers…
Rory – Short for Aurora, Rory is animated and radiant. A lover of light, she invented machines to travel to the stars. Talkative, beautiful, and alert she is a natural leader.
Zephris – is a collector. She built a huge library containing an enormous encyclopedia with a list of every invention, discovery, and idea ever conceived. She also worked to improve education and communication so everyone would be able to access this knowledge.
Neiria – loves to shapeshift and tried to be as many different people as she could. She inspires people to change their lives into something new and different.
Borea – was a lover of peace and a queen during a peaceful period in Wonderland’s history. She created a strong army, a great wall, and many embassies to sustain this peace. She invented new forms of martial arts which combine meditation to prevent anger and rash decisions with combat skills to ward off and subdue aggressors.
Siki – A great traditionalist Siki supported bringing back old styles and ways of doing things. Although new construction suffered some under her rule, many older places were restored and improved. Siki prefers trusting things to work out on their own and waiting to acting.
Genevieve – Murdered by her sister, Genevieve is a careful and thoughtful queen. A quiet planner and a clear thinker she was able to protect her daughter on Earth from her sister’s murderous rage.
Some Dark Watchers…
Maelstra – Although she was one of Wonderland’s most beautiful and powerful queens, Maelstra was never satisfied. Only able to see flaws, she tore down and rebuilt the palace constantly, and destroyed most of her creations in her efforts to improve them. Although initially a follower of White Imagination, her constant destruction in the pursuit of perfection led her to deeper and deeper Black Imagination. Eventually, her imagination consumed her own body leaving her a constant flux of incomplete forms and shapes. Inspiration reflected off Maelstra led to the Kracken in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. A huge writhing consuming hunger is Jules Verne’s impression of Maelstra.
Torvashi – Among the greatest Warrior Queens, Torvashi led Wonderland into a long series of never-ending wars. Violent, angry, and competent, she prefers action to thought. Torvashi invented a new way of processing crystal into a physical enhancement steroid and combined it with genetic engineering to create a perfect warrior race.
Nadine – Obsessed with ownership, Nadine suffers from never-ending paranoia that someone somewhere was stealing her ideas. She created a patent police to seek and destroy any creations too similar to her own. In the end, all she created were ways to prevent and destroy the creations of others.
Dorma – Abandoned by her Prince, Dorma was consumed with grief. Retreating into sorrow, she created statues, poems, and songs, about her lost love, while her queendom fell into decay.
Gloavine – A queen of exceedingly little imagination, Gloavine was consumed with envy. She created lengthy and elaborate approval procedures for new inventions and under her rule, Wonderland ground to a halt.
Ferrara – Crafty and manipulative, Ferrara uses her brilliant psychological insight to manipulate and control. Always playing mind games, it is impossible to figure out exactly what she wants, or predict what she will do next.
Crumpet – The queen who ate Wonderland. Crumpet was a brilliant chef, but she preferred eating to cooking, growing in size until she devoured most of the city. She is the inspiration for Zombie horror films and the associated late night pizza eating.
Walkers are humans the Watchers use to increase the influence of their shade of imagination on Earth. Walkers are people of unusual creativity and skill who listen to and obey the voices of the Watchers in exchange for information, inspiration, and items made from the imagination of Wonderland. Some agents know a great deal about the Watchers of Wonderland, while others know nothing. Walkers can be used for many purposes, such as eliminating other Watchers, preserving of protecting an idea or art work, inventing something, or communicating a message.
Imagination is the lifeblood of existence. Here in our happy little home realm of Earth we are not only dependent on our Imaginations for liberation from the mundane, but also for all innovative progress. A great creative mind can be the difference between total disaster or awesome advancement.
But… Where does Imagination come from? And how does it actually work?
I followed the threads, and I am here to tell you: It all leads back to Wonderland.
All Imagination flows from Wonderland – it may help to think of it as a source and a center of Imagination, the same as the Sun would be for solar power.
Spreading through the various elements of our world and opening infinite ‘timelines’ for when influences arrive the creative energy escapes Wonderland in mysterious ways. Particularly imaginative people (the Lewis Carrolls, Da Vincis and Jules Vernes among us) are best at utilizing the wonder— but all of us are touched by the gift even if we do not recognize it.
The very best and most vital ideas are incepted little by little from the original imaginative power emanating from beyond the Looking Glass. It may take generations for the inspiration to fully arrive and be realized (such as the idea of flight or space travel—it all began when our ancestors who had no hope of touching the stars dared to dream of doing so, likely with a little unknown help from Wonderland).
We are always receiving small influences from action-packed Wonderland. Whether it comes to us in dreams, fleeting inspiration, great works of art, or the chatter of children playing – we share an invisible connection with the source of this creative energy. Wonderland interfaces with our world like imaginative telepathy, a whispering voice in the background of functional chaos.
I entreat you to step back when contemplating Imagination. When you allow your mind to have access to more realms than the ‘official story’, history stops being linear and becomes a psychedelic collage.
Imagination is a neutral energy that is shaped by those channeling or using it. As the Imagination is articulated it can become something of great beauty or terror, it can act as a builder or a destroyer.
On Earth we are very familiar with this element of creativity and imagination – neither is simply good or bad – but both, everything and more. What determines the outcome depends on how it is being expressed. The same is true of Imagination in Wonderland, only more so!
Since Wonderland is the source of all imagination it is truly awesome (in the most specific meaning of the word) just how powerful both Imaginatively creating and destroying become in this realm. Imagination is the essence, the very IT of everything.
While Wonderland Queens (the Red Queen and White Queen) like Redd and Genevieve possess an extraordinary level of Imagination, it is not theirs alone. Everyone in Wonderland is encouraged to value, enrich, and embrace their imaginations. It is a cultural imperative and honor among Wonderlanders.
This may very well be the precarious tipping point upon which our world now lingers. Will we continue to embrace the gift of our Imaginations, or will we turn away? It is my fondest wish that our realm strives to be a little more like Wonderland.
Here on earth, if you are imagining your own world, why not go for it? Why imagine anything less than magnificence? Why censor yourself? I would hope everyone realizes that they possess the power to imagine the wonders of the universe.
Artists and writers know this from literally working with their imaginations daily to ‘manifest’ reality for others to share— paintings, books, films, drawings…it all starts with the imagination. But this is true for everyone.
A person of no great creative ambition still will imagine a cake and what it will taste like— first. Then they will bake it. Or on the flip side— one might hear about the flu and the symptoms. They may imagine how terrible it must feel— and then they have it. Or they imagine feeling better— and start to feel improved. Imagination is so much more powerful than people acknowledge— a folly that is never the case in Wonderland.
Princess Alyss Heart (or Alice as you may know her) had such a powerful imagination she could manifest 3D objects— that’s powerful! But so can you. You need a few more steps to get there and cannot do it by virtue of your genetic traits as a Queen of Light Imagination might— but you can “imagine your life— and then it happens” to quote one of the Witches of Eastwick in John Updike’s novel.
Equal parts trust and self-assuredness are required for great creativity. To utilize your Imagination here on earth you have to open up your mind – you do not want to copy or be influenced by what has come before – you cannot be controlling of it – you must trust it and let it lead you. The same is true in Wonderland, a Queen utilizing Imagination will be able to channel more power from deep within by fully trusting it and herself.
Queen Redd is limited by selfishness and ego. Princess Alyss on the other hand, joins with the people (as a collaboration) and can overcome the Queen— in fact, it’s like getting hit by a train. Redd cannot believe the power coming at her when Princess Alyss summons the people to link their Imagination power with hers. And so, as Queen Redd nears defeat at the end of The Looking Glass Wars, she quits the fight and dives through the Heart Crystal to escape.
This clash of royal power epitomizes the way in which we must condition ourselves to use Imagination here on earth. We must not waste the creative energy on small, minded gains for only ourselves. No… it is vital that we look to Wonderland’s example.
Imagination is a vast topic, on which I could endlessly expound the intricacies and virtues. For today I will conclude my explanation of our connection to Wonderland via the gift of Imagination—and I shall call it “Part One” of this series on the amazing wonders of Imagination.
Perhaps the next time I will revisit the matter with an eye toward a more detailed explanation of the practical Art of Imagination.