Follow The White Rabbit

26 10 2011

Knock knock Neo.

He turns to look at the door. In that moment, those words disappear, along with any evidence that the computer might have even been turned on. I initially did not pay much attention to that scene and continued with the movie on my long flight. After that, I think I watched half of Tron before it was time to land.

I was rather amused when I saw this sign at the Brussels Airport just after I landed. I have no idea what their intentions were behind this ad, but it was cute. I tried hard to recall where the original idea came from, prior to the Matrix. I remembered a scene from Alice in Wonderland, so I took a picture of it and proceeded to my next flight.

I had a very “Follow the White Rabbit” kind of moment when I met a bunch of Belgian students in school later this year and that inspired me to actually put this down into writing. To those of you who are unfamiliar with the movie, you should definitely watch it, but here’s what happens in the relevant scene.

Alice is basically being coerced into an arranged marriage with the son of her fathers colleague. Her Mother-in-law to be takes her for a walk to have a little chat. I don’t think Alice would have noticed the Rabbit if she was actually taking that conversation seriously. She first saw him from the corner of her eyes, and even then she wasn’t sure. It was clearly a non-event to the other lady, who tried to bring Alice back into the conversation, she also threatened to send her dogs behind the rabbit. That is precisely what other people (and sometimes we) do to our rabbit. A lot of times we simply ignore it and focus on “more important” things.

Yet she persists. Later on in the scene, the rabbit’s near a bush, just out of everyone else’s sight but clearly visible to her. He’s frantically pointing to his watch. Time is running out and she needs to make a decision. It’s not an easy decision, there’s a garden full of people pressuring her into accepting a wedding proposal, there’s a chump on his knees with an expectant expression on his face.

It’s an uncomfortable situation. It’s not a clear cut decision, but Alice decides to take a plunge, and she runs after the rabbit like she’s never run before. And the Rabbit takes her to a world beyond her wildest dreams. In the Matrix, Neo follows the girl with the Rabbit tattoo and his meeting with Trinity changes the course of his life. I know people paint a grandiose picture of some “Will Of God” that’s behind this. I’m pretty sure “The Secret” tries to sell this as some sort of great metaphysical insight but I feel there’s some simple facts of human nature, society and a bit of nifty neuroscience behind it. That’ll be for another post 😛

I just rewatched that scene from the movie and, keeping in mind all those little nuances, it’s a powerful message. In every aspect of our lives, our careers, relationships, hobbies, there’s a little, mischevious rabbit lurking just outside our field of view. Everything conspires to distract us, make us ignore him, our “priorities” stop us from trying to follow him. It’s sometimes uncomfortable because it means getting off the beaten track. Sometimes, we also have to compromise on something else, or someone is going to disagree (or worse, shout) at us. We do not have forever to make a decision. Yet, he dangles in front of us, a possibility of taking us to another dimension. When you follow the White Rabbit, be prepared for an adventure.
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