Alice’s Dilemma


There is a delightful little dialogue between Alice and the Caterpillar in The Wonderland that I return to often as a source inquiry and enjoyment.  The Caterpillar wants to know who Alice is.  She replies, “I – I hardly know, Sir, just at present – at least know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then.”

“What do you mean by that?” said the Caterpillar, sternly, “Explain yourself!”

“I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, Sir,” said Alice, “because I’m not myself, you see.”

It appears that Alice has touched upon something very important here: change and identity. Alice is aware that she has changed several times during the day and that with each change she is a different person. Without sufficient reflection and exploration she cannot re-establish or define her new and emerging identity. Each new change covers over a former identity without letting on what the new identity is, or giving it time to take shape. This is how Alice grows, by having bits and pieces of awareness added to her through time. She becomes aware that with the unfolding of each new self she advances to a point where she is no longer the self she used to be. That is why she can say she is not herself, not the person who she has come to know however briefly. The morning has brought changes, the dawn breaks open new possibilities for being, and the light of day reveals the unfolding of a new identity. The anatomy of the self is flexible, awaiting an opportunity to let aspects of identity emerge from experience. To be able to say, “I am not myself” is to acknowledge and affirm my growth, my becoming someone other than the person I have always known. The new being which is always on the verge of emerging anticipates a twilight that will perhaps give it shelter to cherish itself however briefly before slipping into the night where Heracletan dreams endlessly weave and wave their eternal hope.

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