Routines make you become more and more rigid in your thinking. At times, doing the complete opposite of what you want to do may be more beneficial. For example, staying awake when you feel sleepy, sitting in silence when you want to listen to music or walking to your destination instead of driving there. These small acts may allow you to discover fresh feelings and new directions.
(from The Encyclopaedia of Relative and Absolute Knowledge by Bernard Werber)
As an important character in the book Alice in Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat is infamous for his non-sensical and strange questions and answers. But his words also carry a very strong philosophical message. For example, when asked by Alice, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” he replies:
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. “I don’t much care where-” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat. “-so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation. “Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
This directly applies to life: if you keep walking without giving up, you will eventually end up somewhere. Even if you are lost and without direction, life will, without a doubt, take you somewhere as long as there is hope. However, it also points out how it’s much more useful and time-conserving to know the destination you want to reach, also known as a “goal”.
Additionally, the Cat is well-known for his ear-to-ear grin, thus the term “grinning like a Cheshire Cat”. The origin of this cat is most likely from Cheshire, England, where cheese made from there were molded into the shape of a grinning cat.
This riddle was first posed by Lewis Carroll in his famous work, Alice in Wonderland, asked by the Mad Hatter. The Mad Hatter asks this riddle in his nonsensical character, stating that he does not know the answer either. In fact, the book never reveals what the answer to the riddle is.
Perplexed, many readers wrote to Carroll as to the answer of this puzzle. After receiving so many enquiries, Carroll wrote in the preface of his next book that the riddle was thought of without the answer in mind, meaning that he did not know the commonality between the two either. However, he did suggest an answer that:
“Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!” (note that “nevar” is “raven” “put with the wrong end in front”)
Knowing that this riddle was never created with an answer, scholars have attempted to solve this riddle themselves ever since. There have been many proposed answers, such as “they both stand on sticks”, “they both come with inky quills” and the most famous “because Edgar Allan Poe wrote on both” (see The Raven). There have also been nonsensical answers (thus answering to the nonsensical nature of the riddle) such as “because there is a B in both and an N in neither”.
However, perhaps the best answer, as with all works by both Carroll and Poe, is that “you can baffle billions with both”.