Believing Impossible Things

A commenter on yesterday’s post “Practicing the Tarot,” mentioned that he liked the notion of believing six impossible things before breakfast. His suggestion was to use the tarot to challenge three of these thoughts (only three because for the next twelve months I will be doing a three-card reading rather than the two-card layout I’ve been doing for the past year). That captured my imagination, and I responded, “What a great idea. I also like the idea of believing six impossible things before breakfast. Or at least one. I might add that to my morning routine.”

I was wondering how getting in the habit of believing even a single impossible thing every morning might change one’s life, then I realized it wouldn’t change mine at all because believing impossible things is already part of my life. Not that I believe them before breakfast, exactly, nor do I do what the white queen did and practice for half-an-hour a day. It’s just that a belief in certain impossible things runs concurrently with the truth that impossible things are impossible, and no amount of positive thinking or changing one’s habits can make the impossible possible because if the impossible became possible, then it wasn’t impossible.

Some of my impossible beliefs are that I will grow younger, taller, thinner, more muscular, prettier, stronger, smarter, quicker, sharper, able to run long distances and backpack for days at a time, write a book thousands of people will love, become radiant enough I can dispel my atoms and become light itself (actually, I haven’t thought of that last one in a long time; it was an impossible belief for a much, much younger me). And those are just the impossible things I can think of at the moment.

Some of those things might not actually be impossible. Although I have never been able to lose weight, chances are that as I get older, I will also get smaller, and as a result, I will weigh less, but I will also lose muscle (which is why it’s not a good idea for otherwise healthy older folks to lose weight), so one possible belief becomes an impossible belief when coupled with another such belief.

Still, you never know, right? That’s the whole point of believing impossible things because perhaps, just perhaps, they’re not impossible after all. But even more than that, I think we need to entertain such impossible beliefs. Seeing — and believing — only what is probable, is bleak. Who wants to believe, deep down, that they are getting weaker, slower, older, losing brain cells, shriveling up, losing muscle mass, being unable to run ever again, and that it’s all downhill from here? Not me, for sure, which is odd considering that I am one who professes to need the truth. And I do accept the truth of my aging and what has become impossible for me, and yet . . . there they are, all those impossible things I find myself believing.


Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.