Six Impossible Things

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)

If we had one year to….

  • Solve Global Warming
  • Convince government and big business everywhere that it’s in our best interest to have a universal minimum wage supported by genuine green culture and technology
  • Stop fighting wars
  • Create food security and get rid of starvation
  • Secure clean water for everyone
  • Educate and empower women everywhere (and thereby also save our children).

…could we do it?

It sounds ridiculously naïve even to ask such a question. On the face of it, we could do all of this, except for solving Global Warming, which involves planetary processes beyond our control. Better to ask how we might affect climate patterns to prevent mass extinctions.

Stopping war and eradicating hunger is difficult only because of our greed, hypocrisy, and insincerity. If we really wanted to do it, we could. People said that the Berlin Wall would never come down in the twentieth century, and then it did. What seemed impossible changed.

We all want benefit for ourselves and our own. And the problems start. Change the question. But it has to be a global effort before the catalysis takes.

How do we change the question? That might take some time.

There are two levels of the impossible. One level describes a categorical short circuit. Like saying fast slow and meaning it to be simultaneous, distinct and homogeneous. Another category describes things, processes, and conditions that we can’t understand with our present state of knowledge. Like the professors who deemed human flight impossible at the time the Wright Brothers were flying their first craft.

Writers of fantasy and science fiction get to do this every day. But in the “real” world, we get stuck.

Instead of asking in what way are societies and communities unique (a valuable question, nonetheless), we could ask in what way are they similar? Getting rid of the us-and-them division.

Everything affects everything else, and we don’t have the complete book on any one thing, from the largest cosmic phenomena to the smallest microbes, from the behavior of crowds in faraway places to the behavior of your kids at your own elbow. We are beset with sleep and stereotypes, rigidity and conventions.

Take the sun—please. Scarcely a day goes by without some reference to it, from weather reports to tanning possibilities to drought-driven crop failures to planning holidays. We acknowledge that without the sun we are dead. But how far does the influence go?

Research by astronomers and physicists has established that the Sun affects the earth in all kinds of ways most of us have yet to imagine—for example, spacequakes that may in turn cause earthquakes. This isn’t new. The notice appeared last year.  But it tells us that the sun’s plasmic explosions may do more than affect our magnetic field: “sounds generated deep inside the Sun cause the Earth to shake and vibrate in sympathy.”

It’s hard to know what to think about this musical connection between earth and Sun and presumably extending to all the planets. The philosopher Plato had similar ideas over two thousand years ago without the benefit of all the scientific equipment.

Our knowledge of the universe and of ourselves is being re-written every day through extraordinary discoveries. The nature of the impossible is changing. Let’s face it: the impossible is here, around us, in us, through us, in the very air we breathe and the words we use.

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