Six Impossible Things

If I would to be left on a desert island, with only 10 books, one of them would certainly be “Alice In Wonderland”. Among all the things that I still remember every once in a while from this magical book, one dialogue is consistently popping out in my mind: the one between Alice and the Queen:

“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“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.”

Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carrol

Believing Impossible Things

For years (what am I saying, for decades) I used this dialogue as an incentive to dream, to push boundaries, to expand my mind and accept new possibilities. If I remember well, I even did this exercise on purpose, for a few days in a row. Like literally trying to imagine six impossible things, and trying to imagine them before breakfast.

There is a story about the arrival of Cristopher Columbus in what today we know as South America. The Spanish ships could get so close to the shore because they were simply invisible to the locals. No other ship coming from the sea ever arrived there, so they didn’t have a previous recollection of such a thing, so they didn’t “see it”. (I personally think there is a bit of myth here, and the locals couldn’t understand what the ships were, but they could actually see them as objects. Either way, the fact that they couldn’t assimilate those objects to anything familiar in their minds still proves my point.)

Our understanding of reality is limited by our experience. We cannot understand things we didn’t learn, previously. We have to somehow incorporate them in our consciousness, we need to draw them on a map that we know beforehand.

The funny thing is, though, that we can combine all our experiences in something that was never before. It’s called imagination and it’s the process through which we can actually “believe impossible things”.

Imagination is a curious process: it can create representations of “impossible things” in our minds, but, at the same time, we know that these things cannot happen in real life. The simplest example is flying: we can imagine people flying without any equipment, just like a pigeon, but we also know that this is impossible.

To make an already long story short, by exercising our imagination we train our minds to make new connections and enlarge our understanding of the world. That’s a wonderful thing.


There is a “but”.

The line between imagination and reality is a very thin one. Our minds can trick us very often into believing impossible things, when we really shouldn’t. This is the toxic version of “imagination”, it’s called “delusion” and it’s a dangerous path.

To continue the example above, if we would actually believe that people can fly without equipment, and try that, we will die. As simple as that. Gravity is unforgiving, at least on this planet, in this solar system, in this galaxy.

If we become addicted to “believing impossible things”, if we force our way into reality, reality will fight back at some point. Dreaming big is nice, for as long as you’re aware that you’re dreaming. “Putting a dent in the universe” will work out as long as you know which universe you’re currently inhabiting.

And, with that, we’re finally getting to what I wanted to say from the beginning of this article.

Enjoying Reality As It Is

If we spend a lot of time “dreaming big”, and those dreams are constantly invalidated by reality, then something strange will happen: we’re going to be unhappy.

Although we knew in the beginning that we’re just dreaming, and we’re just trying something that may or may not work, we’re still disappointed when it doesn’t work out.

And, instead of accepting the rules of the current reality, we stick to our dream, trying to convince the universe that gravity should make an exception for our audacious, unequipped flying man.

A much better thing would be, in my opinion, to just enjoy flying, as it is. Yes, we may not fly without equipment, because there are these limitations, like gravity and so on, but at least we can fly, somehow.

We may want a job that is so fulfilling and extraordinary in our dreams, and yet, reality tells us that we dream of something impossible. Maybe we’re too old for that job, or too unprepared, or, deep down, unconsciously, we don’t even want that job. Well, that’s not a reason not to enjoy whatever we do now, in the current moment.

We may want a dream-like relationship, a perfect love story that will never end, and yet, because of our own limitations, because of our own insecurities, we will never find one. Instead of trying to build this impossible thing, and becoming stressed, tired and disappointed in the process, why not enjoy whatever we have right now, whatever we can build with our current setup?

Enjoying reality as it is – without expecting it to fit into one of those six impossible things we train to believe before breakfast – is a fine art. It’s not spectacular, but it’s incredibly fulfilling. It’s subtle, it may even seem dull from afar, like you gave up on something, but you really didn’t.

By mastering that art, you only gave up of what’s simply not allowed in this moment, and made room for what it is possible, for what it is real.

And, most of the time, that thing is even better.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

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