Curiosier and Curiosier

"When nothing is sure, everything is possible." Margaret Drabble

When I read this quote, I think of the classic tale "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" by Lewis Carol. When a bored seven-year-old Alice dozing next to her sister on the riverbank first sees the White Rabbit, there doesn’t seem to be anything very peculiar about him (even though he is clearly muttering to himself that he's late). It’s not until she notices that he (oddly) is wearing a waistcoat and carrying a pocket watch that her interest is peaked, and she follows him as he hurries down a rabbit hole.

She isn’t really thinking about where she’s going or how she’ll get back. She’s following her curiosity into the unknown, where everything is possible.

Alice fifty years later is another story. Rudely awakened from her picnic nap by a strange muttering sound, she opens one incurious eye. She must be dreaming, or maybe it was too much wine with her lunch, but surely that rabbit is not talking. And is that a waistcoat it’s got on? And is that really a pocket watch in it's paw? Well, there must be some logical explanation. Maybe a film shoot somewhere. And even if she really is seeing this rather frightening rabbit, well it’s obviously not a good idea to follow it anywhere, especially down that scary-looking hole in the ground it's headed for. She snaps her eye shut, and drifts back to sleep.

As adults, being faced with the unknown or unfamiliar often brings up feelings of fear. We have built our world on “knowing” and being in control. When faced with our equivalent of the White Rabbit, our first reaction is to ignore it or explain it away. Without young Alice’s open curiosity and sense of wonder, we run the danger of falling down that deep dark hole in endless freefall. So rather than taking a risk, we clutch tightly to what we know, to what is safely in our comfort zone. In doing so, we stay stuck where we are, missing the possibilities that following our White Rabbit could open us up to.

Here's something for you to try. What if instead of muttering “I’m late, I’m late”, you imagine the White Rabbit asking “What if? What if?” It’s a deceptively simple question, and certainly much more interesting. Maybe even interesting enough to follow him to the edge of the rabbit hole – perhaps even peer down it – tentatively stick a toe in, just to see if it’s really as cold and slippery you think it is.

"Curiosier and curiosier", we might find ourselves muttering.

The next time your White Rabbit pops up, remember the possibility it brings with it. You don’t have to start with a kaleidoscopic adventure replete with Red Queens and a talking walrus. Just listen with open curiosity to the question “What if?”

And one day, like Alice, you may realize, “It's no use going back to yesterday because I was a different person then."