Curiously this morning, I'm thinking again on the nonsensical yet very earnest story of Alice in Wonderland. Alice is my favorite character in literature. I admire her questioning nature, her determination and her willingness to leap into the Rabbit Hole fearlessly. I love her desire to explore and accept what happens to her. I love that she is Curious. I've read both her stories repeatedly. And ... once upon a time I sought a way into her looking-glass myself ...
In Lewis Carroll's nonsensical world, there resides a caterpillar. He is now, thanks to the cleverness of Tim Burton, known as Absalom. And his voice echoes in my head -- sounding, not surprisingly, very much like Alan Rickman. And his key question applies not only in a nonsensical land to Alice, but to each of us. No matter whether we are 3" tall and standing beside a mushroom or 6' tall walking down the street, we must consider a very personal and sincere question, as only we can answer it genuinely ...
Intriguing and not easily answered, is it?
Hamlet examined this very question in one of his many contemplative monologues, lamenting: What a piece of work is a man ... How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust??
Bringing us back to The Caterpillar. Whooo ... are ... you? he asks in his breathy tones. The answer, even for Alice, was more complicated than she first realized. And, so it is with each of us.
Whooo ... are ... you? Perhaps you are many things, making the answer elusive. Mother or Father ... Wife or Husband ... Significant Other ... Lover ... Actor ... Athlete ... Writer ... Director ... Traveler ... Explorer .. Poet ... Doctor ... Lawyer ... Indian Chief? Perhaps you have a job ... or career, in the home or outside its four walls. Perhaps you have a hobby or a passion. Perhaps you like to garden or dance. Perhaps you teach or guide others at a school or other facility. Perhaps you are an animal lover or retired after many years in the work force.
Your beliefs affect who your are. Your values too. Your goals and your hopes. Your deepest longings and desires. Your habits and addictions. The music you listen to and the books you select. All these things shape who you are ... all these things add depth and pieces to the puzzle that is you.
There are so many possibilities and responses, leaving the Caterpillar's question floating in the air.
Are we who we want to be?
Are we who others need us to be?
Or ... are we both? And did we set aside who we are for the ease and comfort of others ... or the ease and comfort of ourselves.
In the 1970's, Sally Field played Sybil, a woman with multi-multi personality disorder. She had so many personalities even her therapist, played by JoAnne Woodward, didn't truly know them all.
On the popular HBO series Game of Thrones, we meet a man with many faces ... Jaqen H'ghar. He can be all things or no one. And his true face and motives are as unclear as why our favorite characters seem to die off all too quickly.
In these "dramas," we catch glimpses of a deeper truth ... the complexity of human nature. We are each of us a Sybil, with many characters lurking inside and awaiting a chance to come into the light. Based on the situation we find ourselves, we become the personality and character that fits the occasion.
We are each a Jaqen H'ghar, sometimes showing our face and other times hiding our true selves and donning the image our immediate situation needs -- the one we select that depicts the image expected or required. Sometimes we hide our true face, fearing rejection or misunderstanding. Perhaps it becomes habit to show only that persona that fits the expectations of others or our current situation, hiding away those darker elements of our personality or sharing them only occasionally and selectively. Sometimes we choose to play the role that goes with the flow and causes the least amount of discord in our lives.
Whooo ... are ... you?
That is our greatest secret, isn't it? And some people keep that answer close to the vest, showing only the merest hint of its complexity to others. Some of us try to control it, manage it. No matter what words are uttered from our lips or what actions we perform, only we know what is natural, what comes from the heart, what is part of our performance and what is authentic.
Then, no matter what and who we think we are and what we think is right or best for us, if we are open to it we can be surprised and discover unexpected elements inside us. We can still be shaped and grow based on the words, ideas and invitations of others ....
For example ...
The other day, I auditioned for a beautiful play based on a book that I read and adored. I prepared and met with a friend prior to the audition to read through the script. We were auditioning for different roles and hoping to have the chance to perform together. Then when the auditions began, the director flipped us ... seeing us in the opposite roles. After months of preparing for one part, suddenly we looked at the script and roles differently. We were surprised, yet the challenge of finding ourselves in this new light, helped us discover something new -- something exciting. Something enchanting in itself.
Providence? All I realized is that you have to be open to live fully and find delight where you might have once found fear.
Of our true selves, only we know. And every now and then, someone touches our lives to shed light on aspects of us even we didn't know were inside. The trick, I've discovered, is to be open to the surprises that greet us each day ... to make the most of those moments and embrace life ... to be unafraid of leaping down the Rabbit Hole or into the Looking Glass and meeting our own White Rabbit and Blue Caterpillar.
In the immortal words of The X-Files, The Truth Is Out There. You can either hide your Light (or your Dark) or leap into the Rabbit Hole, embrace each moment and person that touches your life with two hands, and continue the journey to truly discover Whoooo You Are ....