“So you think you’ve changed, do you?”
Alice crawled out from under the table and rubbed her head, wondering who might be talking to her now.
It was the caterpillar!
“Well, Sir, just a moment ago I was no bigger than a flea, and then I grew so big I banged my head on the ceiling. And now here I am again… under this table.”
“And you call that change?”
Alice felt herself getting irritated. “Yes, indeed!” she said indignantly, and placed her hands on her hips to press her point.
“Well, what is that behind you?” the caterpillar asked drowsily.
Alice turned around. “It’s a looking glass,” she answered.
“What do you see in it?”
“Well, I see myself, of course.”
“And have you gone through the looking glass?”
Alice was not sure what to make of this question. Through the looking glass? That seemed a strange idea indeed. And how would one go about such a thing, anyhow?
“I am not sure what you mean, Sir,” she said with a bit of curiosity.
“Oh, of course not. That’s because you’ve never been there before.”
Alice was truly confused.
“See that picture over there?” The caterpillar asked.
“Oh, those men?” asked Alice.
“Yes. What are they doing?”
“Well, clearly they are walking.”
Alice waited for the caterpillar to explain himself, having learned by now that he was not to be rushed. After a minute or two, he looked at her indifferently.
“Well, are they still walking?”
Alice was baffled, looking from the caterpillar to the painting on the wall.
“But of course they are still walking!”
“Precisely!” The caterpillar said again.
“They’ll never really get anywhere, you know,” he continued in his disinterested tone. “They have just become so used to walking. They have quite given up on really getting anywhere. And so they walk, one foot in front of the other, as if walking is all there is to do in this world. And it’s so easy to believe that you are going somewhere when you are walking. But they prefer not to risk too much, and they don’t want the scenery to really change. They are just so used to it, the way it is. So they will never find anything else.”
“But how does one get through the looking glass?” Alice asked, now interested.
“That is what you have to figure out for yourself. But I should warn you: It is going to get so much harder than this. If you think you are struggling now, just you wait. Your whole world is going to turn upside down. But if you continue, you will find what you are looking for. And your struggle will be REAL.”
“And what if I just stay here?” asked Alice.
“Well, look at yourself in the glass, and just ask yourself if this is where you want to stay. Forever.”
Time went by. Alice was never sure about it anymore - sometimes it seemed like a day had passed, and other times it seemed like an eternity. But after rains and races, March Hares and Cheshire Cats, Queens and Knights and moments when she really couldn’t remember who she was anymore, she came to a room. She felt like she had seen it before… or had she?
In the room was a looking glass. And looking through it, she saw herself on the other side: She was rubbing her head, and talking to her old friend, the caterpillar. On the wall was a painting of a group of men, walking together. And Alice looked through the looking glass at her old self, and thought how different I was then!
Illustration by John Tenniel, public domain