Suddenly she came upon a little three-legged table, all made of solid glass; there was nothing on it except a tiny golden key, and Alice’s first thought was that it might belong to one of the doors of the hall; but, alas! either the locks were too large, or the key was too small, but at any rate it would not open any of them. However, on the second time round, she came upon a low curtain she had not noticed before, and behind it was a little door about fifteen inches high: she tried the little golden key in the lock, and to her great delight it fitted!”

-Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 1


 Alice then looks through the door to discover an amazingly beautiful garden on the other side. Being the kind of curious child she was, Alice immediately set her mind to get to the other side and lie amongst the flowers; even though she couldn’t even get her head through the door.

Eventually, and after many adventures which involved considerable changes in her size, she manages to get to the garden and continue her journey as we know it.

But what about all the other doors that Alice didn’t open? What would her adventure have been if she had opened a different one?

These are the kind of questions that the great poet T.S. Eliot had in mind when writing the first few lines of his poem Burnt Norton, the first in his Four Qartets. Here’s a fragment of the poem:

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future.
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. . My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
[continue reading]

In the text, T.S. Eliot ponders about the multiple futures that lie ahead of us at every moment and the infinite possibilities of what our past and future might have been.

During last week’s Book Club, while discussing the poem and its meaning, an interesting question rose: If you were given the possibility to go back and peek through the keyholes of your ‘other doors’, would you do it?  If so, to what purpose?

It was quite interesting to discover that even though many of us do not regret our choices in life, we do wish we could see what might have happened had we chosen differently at certain points in our life. Others however, fervently oppose going thorugh that old path and lingering on memories that never were.

Would you use your chance to look at your other possible lives?