Alice: I was just wondering if you could help me find my way.
Cheshire Cat: Well that depends on where you want to get to.
Alice: Oh, it really doesn’t matter, as long as …
Cheshire Cat: Then it really doesn’t matter which way you go.
This little vignette from “Alice in Wonderland” was referenced in a dharma talk I attended tonight. It was given by Aadil Palkhivala, a master yogi under whom I’ll be studying for the next three days.
“Without knowledge of the destination,” he said, “every decision is meaningless.”
Perhaps I didn’t comprehend all of the context behind this statement — as yogi talk can sometimes float above my rational head — but I immediately questioned it.
Why do we need to know our destination, our calling, our specific dharma in order for decisions to be “meaningful”? Does meaning not get illuminated through search and investigation? Or more simply put, isn’t the journey sometimes the “destination”?
Maybe “destination” and “intention” are one in the same, in this context. For when I substitute “intention” for “destination,” the sentence suddenly makes more sense:
“Without knowledge of the intention, every decision is meaningless.”
This vignette with Alice, as a metaphor for life, now comes alive. Alice lacked the intention that would provide her with focus and direction — and make her care about the path to take. “Oh, it really doesn’t matter,” she said.
The Cheshire Cat called her out on this: How could she have lost her “way,” if she didn’t have a “way” to begin with?
Sometimes I feel like Alice when I bump into Cheshire Cats who question me in a way that prompts me to question myself.
How could I have known, as a child watching this Disney cartoon, that this scene would some day evolve into more than a funny encounter between a talking cat and lost little girl?