Caterpillars and Hookahs

I am relatively certain Charles Lutwidge Dodgson had no idea that his novel, written in 1865, would have a profound effect on my life.  Actually, it all began with the animated adaptation of his famous work; which I first viewed sometime prior to my eighth birthday.  Little did I know that a surly blue caterpillar, sucking away on his hookah, would serve as one of my favorite sources of wisdom these forty years later.  As I am certain you have guessed by now, I of course speak of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” penned under the name of Lewis Carroll.

The cinematic version of this classic work left its intended impression upon my adolescent mind.  Walt Disney assured that I was entertained and walked away with the knowledge that I should never descend into rabbit holes.  Along the way, I was treated to colorful characters, an enjoyable sound track, and a healthy fear of short men in top hats with tea kettles in their hands!

As an adult, I decided that it was time to actually read many of the classics that had inspired me in their silver screen versions.  “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was no exception to this pledge!  As the words leapt off the page at me, I was awestruck by just how dark the work really was.  It took several chapters before I realized that “literary nonsense” had been created by design, and that there was nothing wrong with my apparent lack of comprehension!

The vast menagerie of characters brought to life by Carroll each had their particular impact on both my adolescent and adult minds.  But perhaps nobody made a bigger impression on me than the caterpillar with the hookah.  His interrogation of Alice begins with the simple words, “Who are you?”  He then drives Alice through a series of questions and demands that at first glance appear to be simple gibberish.  However, upon closer examination; we see that the puffing caterpillar is helping Alice realize that she has an identity crisis.

Setting aside his chain-smoking ways, the caterpillar has served me well as a role model.  His never-ending stream of questions have inspired me to examine my life over the years.  Three simple words have forced me analyze not only who I am, but also what I believe and what I stand for.  I have been compelled to dissect my inner fabric, reevaluate my priorities, and ask myself what is truly important in life.  All of this because an azure insect with nicotine-stained teeth uttered “Who are you?”

Each of us has to face the caterpillar at some point or another in our lives.  It is convenient to get caught up the routine of the day, sheltered by a never-ending list of tasks that must be accomplished.  We go out of our ways to be sure that we do not waste a single waking moment.  For that matter, most of us have an excessive amount of waking moments; becoming a society of sleep-deprived zombies!  When we finally determine that we need a little down time; we anesthetize ourselves with a fast-acting, television-based, mind-numbing agent!

Perhaps it is time for each of us to crawl down our own respective rabbit hole.  There is a surreal adventure awaiting each and every one of us within the burrow.  In the safety of an underground fantasy land, we are liberated to admit that we possess a lack of identity.  The first thing that we need to acknowledge is that we have been living an illusion above ground.  We have insulated ourselves so thickly in who we should be that we have lost sight of who we truly are.  Challenged by what may seem absurd at first; the simplest of situations and events, no matter how non-sensical, serve to open our eyes.  In short, we are awakened from our self-imposed slumber and thrust into self-examination.

When you round the corner on the path and run into the hookah-smoking caterpillar seated on a giant mushroom; how will you answer his simple question?  “Who are you?”  Have you ever honestly asked yourself this question?  More importantly, have you ever honestly answered the question?  The reply is not based upon what you do for a living, where you live, or what others think about you!  The correct response can only be found deep within your very being.  What do you believe in that nobody can change?  Do you have a personal code of “right” and “wrong?”  What are you willing to die for?  Therein lies your answer.

In my late teens, I was introduced to a wonderful rock song.  It too made a strong impact on my life.  I am certain that the caterpillar with the hookah would approve as well.  However, “Who are You?” by the Who is a blog post unto itself!

About Jerry V. Dollar, Author, Humorist, Observer of the Human Condition

When not trekking around the globe, Jerry Dollar can be found in Colorado Springs, CO where he lives with his wife Robbi. Besides an affinity for writing and travel; he is also an avid bodybuilder, a very prolific reader, and an enthusiastic observer of the human condition. Jerry has published two books which are available on: Lulu, Amazon, Kindle, Nook, and IBook. "Announcing a Flight Delay" is a hilarious recap of the author's experiences as a million mile flyer. "A Dollar's Worth" is a collection of observations on the human condition, which originally appeared as blog posts. Dr. Dollar has served in various senior executive management capacities over the past 25 years. He has previously worked within the healthcare, insurance, software, and several other high technology industries. Jerry is recognized for his expertise in creating the foundations for emerging organizations to succeed in complex sales environments. He is also well known for his leadership in guiding technology companies through rapid growth phases. Jerry speaks five languages and has conducted business in over 70 countries on six continents. He holds particular expertise in the Latin American and Western European geographic areas. Dr. Dollar holds a BA in International Affairs, a BA in Spanish, an MBA in Marketing, and a PhD in Organizational Development. He has authored numerous professional articles, various training courses, and has conducted seminars and conferences around the world.
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6 Responses to Caterpillars and Hookahs

  1. Great write Jerry! I now know who I am, and this is satisfying to the soul. I have to accomplish some of the things yet that are going to finalize the steps, but being on the path and not needing the hookas or mushrooms anymore to help achieve it is uplifting. Here’s to many more blogs!

  2. All through your post I was thinking of another song, “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane. But I love “Who are you” as used on the original CSI. I’me getting asked “who are you” a lot these days, as I get author interviews from various sites. I don’t always give the same answer, but I’m finding the differences help me hone the essential core answer.

  3. rana mukherjee says:

    Often the meanings I find by reading between the lines are prompted by things that are important to me. May be you needed to know who you are and Alice in Wonderland provided the cue.
    Of course “who are you” is so universal to all as to be cosmic.

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