The Phantom Tollbooth: Fifty-ish Years of Things that Could Be, Rather Than Things that Are

For Christmas this year, my parents gave me the esteemed gift of the 50th Anniversary Edition of my absolute favorite book in the world, The Phantom Tollbooth.  Norton Juster’s personification of a bored boy who travels into a world where words become literal (the “doldrums” are a place you can visit, where nothing gets done and everyone sleeps a lot) and the weird runs rampant is the key to unlocking the imagination of even the most stodgy and uptight reader – or even student, in the midst of papers and projects.

Even though the actual fiftieth anniversary of The Phantom Tollbooth was in 2011, now is as good a time as any to reminisce about the importance of thinking like a child – which is exactly what this book puts me in the mind frame of.  Especially the moral at the end of the story (*spoiler alert*) which is if you believe you can, the impossible is achievable.

This concept of the impossible is one that rattles around in the brains of students quite often, with the concept of sacrifice right behind it (to the tune of forgetting how to sleep at night).  However, in the mindset of The Phantom Tollbooth, I find myself wondering how I might approach the impossible if I had no concept of the impossible – would it still, then, be impossible?  Or is it demoted to the very difficult?  Or, is that my understanding of the overwhelming simply because my archivist’s brain had to arrange and describe these feelings, and impossible seemed the best label?

Stepping back has become a theme for me so far in 2013.  Perspective, among all things, should always be an important part of any circadian cycle.  If you ever find yourself needing some perspective, I suggest picking up this children’s book.  Norton Juster has never led me wrong yet.

PS – For more information, check out this (somewhat dated) article from the New Yorker! http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/10/17/111017fa_fact_gopnik?currentPage=all

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