The phrase “Through the Looking Glass, ”as used in literature by world renowned author Lewis Carroll, can be viewed as a metaphor for any time the world suddenly appears unfamiliar, almost as if things were turned upside down – similar to looking out from inside the mirror to find a world both recognizable and yet turned inside-out.
Comparing today’s global environment vs. one year ago feels to me a bit like Lewis Carroll’s insightful metaphor. Despite all of the apparent unsettledness in the world these days, perhaps there are lessons from Lewis Carroll’s classic work of literature that we can apply to today’s challenges:
- “You can’t change the past, but you might learn something from it.” As Alice travels thru time and ‘through the looking glass’, she learns that even though she can’t change the past, she can learn from her past to prevent similar mistakes from happening in the future. For those of us who have ever made a mistake (perhaps even a life-changing mistake) at one point or another in our lives (probably a universal phenomenon for all humanity), and wish we could have another chance to choose differently, perhaps the best thing we can do is to learn from our mistakes.
- “The only way to achieve the impossible is to believe it is possible.” This is a direct quote from Alice’s father in Alice Through the Looking Glass. Albert Einstein said: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” For the optimists and entrepreneurs who keep trying in the face of adversity and failure, the word ‘impossible’ contains the potential translation: “I’m possible.”
- Revenge never did Anything for Anyone. More often than not, trying to heal our wounds through revenge, instead of helping us, hurts us even more. As Brazilian author Paulo Coehlo (The Alchemist) has been quoted: “Kiss slowly, Laugh insanely, Live truly and Forgive quickly.”
- “The only thing worth doing is that which you do for others.” Alice constantly does things for others, never thinking about herself. “The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others…I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.” -Albert Schweitzer
- It’s never too late to admit your mistakes and say ‘I’m sorry.’ Is it ever too late to be forgiven? Oftentimes, a simple ‘I’m sorry’ will suffice. How many times have we held on too long to our grudges as well as our mistakes when it would’ve been so much easier to be honest about them (mostly with ourselves)?
- “Friends cannot be neglected.” The wise and beloved Absolem, who returns as a butterfly, knows that no matter how rocky life gets, a good friend will always be there for you, and vice versa. A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected.
- “Everyone parts with everything eventually.” “It’s not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent, when they are not.” -Thich Nhat Hanh. As we learn from the past, if we can muster the courage to let go of the past while at the same time embracing the things that happened along the way even though it might not have happened the way we wanted it to, perhaps we can tap into our own inner resourcefulness to carry on with renewed confidence and vitality.
Many thanks again to Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) for creating the literary genre of literary nonsense, through which insight and perspective could be communicated via humor and word play. It strikes me that a possible modern day equivalent might be the late night shows/hosts who impart their version of this genre also thru humor and word play. Check them both out if you need a break from the constant onslaught of the daily news media.