Authored by Tina Kapp
Some of you may have seen the movie or musical, Man of La Mancha. It’s the story of Don Quixote, the crazy Spanish crusader, who sings the famous song, “The Impossible Dream.” A couple of lines of the song say:
To dream the impossible dream,
To fight the unbeatable foe,
To bear with unbearable sorrow,
To run where the brave dare not go.
To dream the impossible dream,
It’s one of those songs I’ve known “forever” that I never stopped to think about what it meant. I mean, if you are dreaming the impossible dream, aren’t you a bit crazy? If it’s impossible, why waste time dreaming about it … or worse yet, actually setting out to make it a reality? The fact of the matter is, every great achievement was once considered impossible until someone made it a reality.
I recently watched a movie about Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple. The most amazing thing about him was his ability to see beyond what people already knew. He wanted to create something better, but his ideas sounded impossible and far-fetched. He once said, “How can people know what they want when they’ve never seen it before?” His board argued with him at one point that there was no market for a personal computer and that ordinary people wouldn’t want or need one. Sounds ridiculous now, but at the time, that was the logic.
Years ago, the best thing for playing music was a CD, which held around 15 songs and had an hour of playtime. Even the slimmest players weren’t that portable and had a problem with skipping when bounced around. Imagine going from that to an iPod or a smartphone, which can hold thousands of songs and fit in your pocket? It would take some crazy imagination to come up with an idea like that. Such vision requires a mindset of refusing to accept things as they are but instead striving to make things better. No wonder it’s often referred to as thinking “out of the box.” Way too many of us get stuck in the box, and we limit ourselves to thinking within the confines of what everyone else is doing or what’s already been created.
Another example of a visionary is Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone. He told others he was sure we could communicate our voices long distance. People thought he was crazy, but now phones have taken on a life of their own and are able to take photos, record, type, transfer data, and the list goes on.
It’s amazing to think that many of the gadgets we have now, and often take for granted, were just “impossible dreams” for someone only 50 years ago, sometimes much less! Your parents, and possibly your older brothers and sisters, knew what it was like to live before email and the Internet. Can you even imagine life without modern technology for your research, fun, and communications? Texting and the multitude of messaging programs didn’t exist 15 years ago. To chat with your friend, you had three options: visit them, call them on the phone (not a cell phone either), or write them a letter and send it by post.
Someone had to be “crazy” enough to dream up the idea that things could be done better and faster and in completely new ways. Then a lot of “someones” had to believe in it enough to do the nitty-gritty work before it became a shiny new creation that today we can’t live without.
Lewis Carroll’s famous book about Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, talks about the need to dream the impossible dream. There is a conversation between Alice and the queen, which goes like this:
“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 impossible things.”
“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.”
It’s funny, but true. Your mind is where it all starts. Thinking of ways things can be done better is something we can and should be doing in our day-to-day lives. We don’t all have to be inventors, but we don’t have to stop at merely “trying” to accomplish our goals.
Being “good enough” at something can actually be a negative trap. If you’re okay with just being good enough, you stop trying to do more—to practice and study harder and reach for something that you couldn’t do before. Rather than comparing with where you’ve come from, focus on where you’re going. If someone had looked at that CD player and thought, “Well, at least it’s better than a gramophone or cassette tapes” (ask your parents about those), they could have patted themselves on the back and left it at that. Thankfully, someone didn’t.
When I was little, I learned a poem attributed to St. Jerome that went, “Good, better, best. Never let it rest till your good is better and your better is best.” The people who accomplish the most in life and have the greatest success live by that mindset. It takes not looking at the excuses as to why it can’t be done or dwelling on the limitations.
In our Christian life, it means having larger faith and keeping our eyes on Jesus and His promises no matter what difficulties we face, always remembering that “everything is possible for one who believes (Mark 9:23).”1
God wants us to use the promises that were recorded in His Word for our benefit, encouragement, and comfort,2 so that we will believe in His power to do greater things The Bible is full of impossible events, like Noah building the ark and saving humanity, a little shepherd boy defeating Goliath, Naaman being healed from leprosy, Daniel surviving the lion’s den, Jesus turning water into wine, Peter walking on the water, and so much more. Compared to those things, our “impossible dream” may seem a little more reachable.
G. M. Trevelyan, the British historian, said it succinctly, “Never tell a young person that anything cannot be done. God may have been waiting centuries for someone ignorant enough of the impossible to do that very thing.”3
2 Romans 15:4
3 More about G. M. Trevelyan
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2015 by The Family International