“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – Lewis Carroll Alice in Wonderland.
It’s probably unfashionable to say so, but I have always been a fan of the Queen in Alice in Wonderland, purely because of this quote. It made it quite OK for me to dream impossible dreams, and so I did. When you regularly believe impossible things you often find that they are really quite possible. After all, as Nelson Mandela said “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” And once it has been done then it’s never impossible again.
I think that ‘impossibility’ is merely a word that means I haven’t found the answer yet; and if I consider this as my mantra it means I never give up asking the question.
This little bit of philosophy has come about from some pre-breakfast consideration of the problem of gravity. Yes – gravity! I have been trying to explain the concept of gravity to my six year old granddaughter; who believes in fairies. (That point is important).
I carefully dropped my book on the floor and explained that there was this invisible force that acted on everything on the earth and pulled the book down to the ground, and this force was called gravity. I enlarged on the subject and waxed lyrical about the fact that while it was invisible we could see that it exists by observing the effects it has on other things.
My granddaughter smiled pityingly at me – “Grandma” she said, “Don’t be silly – it’s fairies!” Now I am not one to prick a child’s belief in the supernatural so I politely asked her to explain. I found out that everything on earth is actually surrounded by a troop of fairies that looks after its well being. My book has one, and so when I dropped it, they rallied around and gently carried it to the ground so that it wouldn’t hurt itself.
I thought I had the killer punch though, and said “How interesting, but what happens in space dear? You’ve seen things floating around up there, why don’t the fairies help out up there?”
There was another look of exasperation, “Grandma – these are earth fairies they don’t like space!” Indeed, I thought, and who could blame them.
When I considered the problem, what was the difference between the two solutions to the fact that objects fall to the ground? In truth both explanations covered the known facts, and both gave a possible interpretation of the visible phenomena. Well, possible as long as you are willing to believe in fairies that is. And remembering the Queen in Alice, I was willing to believe
It comes down to the simple fact that belief is structured to what we want to be true. If you are willing to admit that the invisible force that acts on the falling book can be called “fairies’ then why not – it raises a million other possibilities. So why do we all feel that ‘gravity’ is the true explanation when it is merely a name for the effect of something that really is invisible. Could it be that we believe it because we have been told over and over again that it exists and of course every rational person just ‘knows’ that fairies don’t exist. I can imagine my science teacher, with his hair standing on end if I had asked him why it couldn’t be fairies.
I brought the subject up for a reason. Many times I have turned away from attempting something because “I just knew it couldn’t be done” and consequently, because I believed it couldn’t get done, it never got tried. I wonder what my life would be like now, if I had tried and found that it wasn’t impossible after all. I am glad my granddaughter raised her alternative possibility, and did it with the sincerity of true belief. It made me reconsider what is truly impossible.
I am not sure who said it, but one of my favourite quotes was “Today, we will do the tough things; Tomorrow, the impossible ones; And the day after that, we will perform miracles!” so I have taken it out and dusted it off, and it now adorns my computer as a reminder that impossible things become possible when we try.
So please excuse me … I have another three impossible things to believe before breakfast; but it won’t take long… and I think I have just been kissed by a fairy – it’s just two now!!
Michele @ Trischel