Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found
by Lewis Carroll
'I can't believe THAT!' said Alice.
'Can't you?' the Queen said in a pitying tone. 'Try again: draw a long breath,
and shut your eyes.'
Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said: 'one CAN'T believe
'I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your
age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day.Why, sometimes I've believed as many
as six impossible things before breakfast.'
This is probably my favorite quotation. The art of believing in impossible things, its rare successes, and its many egregious failures, is in the end the only reason to believe that there exists a decent human future. As Albert Einstein said, “If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.”
I believe that decency will prevail over malice and tyranny not because it has ever seemed likely, but because the best of us refuse to accept the hegemony of conventional realities. Those precious few understand that the only way to change a harsh reality is not merely to avert its ill effects for a season, but to redefine that reality forever. Whether it was the discovery of fire, the creation of democracy, or the inventions of the printing press, and the internet those who did so redefine reality forever, changing reality by adding to it a new set of things that currently exist as real.
Yet the heroes are not only, The MacArthur Geniuses, or The Right Livelihood and Nobel Laureates, but even more so the many workaday 'Somebodies' who hold fast, and keep faith with their better angels. Some of them step out of obscurity to become famous like Leymah Gbowee. Some like Bill Moyers seem to have always been there. Others are heroes only to a few, but all have stubbornly refused to accept reality as it is.
They have, to put it another way, fashioned a human creation or idea as a true secondary reality that supersedes, and replaces the primary reality. Sometimes it is only an often-repeated idea spoken by one person to one other person, which through the 'Six Degrees of Separation' is heard by everyone. Yet as that one idea percolates through human societies, it changes everyone who hears it. In a like manner every person who reads these few remarks will be changed by them forever if, but only if that person is capable of believing that they too can be a hero. I know well how hard it is to accept that idea. Who me . . . A hero? “One CAN'T believe impossible things.”