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Dirty Computer album cover. Copyright: Wonderland, Bad Boy, Atlantic Records

Jessica’s Science Blog- 10.11.18

Alice in Wondaland?

You might agree that the classic book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, written by Lewis Carroll in 1865, paints a vivid picture of escapism. In today’s world, escapism means something akin to a week on a tropical white sand beach. In Wonderland, Carroll portrays a fundamentally different kind of escapism. His is a juicy, indulgent, existential (crisis kind of) escapism. The kind that has a dream-like quality. Some elements of the story make sense, while others, that would seem outlandish initially, go down easily with swig of mystery liquid. In this way, Carroll invites the reader to buy into various outlandish scenarios and strange creatures for reasons that transcend logic and reason. As with a dream, I believe that imagination is the key to achieving this radical acceptance.

Most are familiar with the story. Alice plunges through a rabbit hole that delivers her to a fantastical realm and allows her to escape her mundane surroundings in the English countryside. She’s only seven years old, but Alice has a clever disposition and an innate curiosity for the world. In some ways, she’s an archetype for the curious child in all of us. The child who’s fundamentally good, but also a little mischievous and longing for adventure! I think we all know a child like Alice.

I’ve been following the news these past few weeks. Like many women, I was absolutely gutted by Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. The pain that I’ve been feeling is deep. I have not been in touch with my inner Alice. But there has been a small glimmer or two in the darkness. One glimmer is the upcoming midterm elections, when we have a chance to elect different leadership in congress. Another glimmer came from an unexpected place, a place of futuristic freedom movements envisioned by Janelle Monae.

Have you listened to Monae’s new album, Dirty Computer? If you haven’t, I recommend giving it a listen. Monae also produced, what she calls, an emotion picture, which explores the subject of how we are all flawed, and thus considered dirty. Monae plunges us into a world in which our memories are purged, as if they were wiped clean from a hard drive. Her imagined world is haunting, but also provocative.

I had voluntarily escaped my own pain and frustration and sense of injustice with the real world in favor of a different kind of pain and frustration, this time imagined. Why did this bring me comfort? I think it’s because in Monae’s Wondaland there is a feeling that there IS a fundamental injustice to viewing women, particularly women of color, as dirty computers that need to be cleaned. I think one could apply the concept of misogyny to this social commentary. It feels like the white men, who uphold and reinforce the patriarchy in our country feel the need to scrub clean the notion that women are equal to men. I see injustice in our patriarchy, injustice that links directly to a fear and hatred of women.

I’m grateful for Monae’s art and music, because it got me in touch with my inner Alice. I’m very curious about the world around me, and I’m not willing to accept it the way that it is. I’ve learned that my inner Alice resides in Wondaland. She’s alive and well, in the company of freedom fighters.

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If you liked this post, be sure to check out my previous blog entries on When Science Met Nature….

SEP: Discovering Iceland

MAR: Feed your microbiome wisely!

FEB: Warriors of cold and flu season

JAN: Adult snow days

NOV: Gorillas have sex, too

OCT: Frogs and spiders, oh my! Surprising food web dynamics in neotropical swamps

SEP: The Long Trail

JUN, JUL, AUG: Tales from a far-flung forest: parts 1, 2, and 3,

MAY: We can be heroes! Finding your community on iNaturalist

FROM 2016: The health benefits of yoga: A scientific perspective.