Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in a world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing. – Muhammad Ali
Is changing our world impossible? I know it’s easy for us to get tired and overwhelmed and start to believe it is. We can easily feel we have no power, or certainly not enough, to make a dent much less change the way things are and have been for so long – long before anyone reading this essay was born. Long before our parents and grandparents and their grandparents were born.
Here’s what I want to remind us of when Impossible feels bigger and badder than Possible:
Ali says Impossible is “an opinion.” That’s certainly true and we are choosing to shoulder the opinion of Possible and stand in the truth of it.
He says it’s “a dare.” We, along with millions of other people in this country and across the world, are willing to take that dare and go where that dare leads us.
He describes Impossible as “potential.” Well, so is Possible. That’s the potential we’re interested in. That’s the pilot light we want to fire up in other people with our words and actions.
Impossible, he says, is “temporary.” It’s those dark times when we feel doubt and even despair creeping in. Everyone who fights for equality and justice experiences those times. But they pass if we don’t buy into them and when we move ourselves into action. When these dark days pass, the light returns and we come back to the Possible that is permanent, that is Now.
Last and most importantly, Ali tells us that Impossible is nothing. Nothing! That’s what I want to shout from a rooftop. IMPOSSIBLE IS NOTHING! When we feel it, when we think it, it is just that – a feeling, a thought.
To bring about change, you must not be afraid to take the first step. We will fail when we fail to try.
What goes beyond thought and feeling is the Possibility we bring to this struggle to eradicate racism once and for all. It’s the Possibility that, not just through our attitudes and beliefs, but through our actions, hearts and minds can change and that someday, people everywhere will awaken and see the non-negotiable right for equality, justice and freedom for everyone.
Here is a list of books which many people are finding helpful these days. We hope you will find it useful in your own journey as an ally in the struggle against systemic racism. (They are not listed in any particular order.)
Waking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to be White by Daniel Hill
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin Diangelo
This virus is here, and if you’re anything like me, you may be getting a little tired of people telling you to stop living in fear. Well, here’s my self-righteous response to that:
I am fully capable of living WITH fear while not living IN fear.
It’s okay if we’re afraid. It’s a perfectly normal human response to a scary situation over which we have no power.
Fear, if denied, can wreak havoc on our emotional, physical and spiritual selves. Pushing it down doesn’t serve us. Just like a burp, it’s going to come out whether we want it to or not. I promise you, it’s going to find a way.
Sufi mystic and poet Rumi tells us that “this being human is a guest house.” He says to welcome all our feelings even if they “violently sweep” our houses clean of its furniture.
Well, I’m not nearly as clever with the written word at my dear friend Rumi, but here is a little something I’ve thought up which maybe you’ll find useful when fear comes to your door for a visit.
F – Feel it. We all hate to hear that, but I think it’s important. Feel your heart beating faster than usual, your stomach tightening up… and breathe. Slowly. Consciously. Use a prayer or mantra or not. Count or don’t. Just breathe. In…out…in…out. Slowly, now. You’ve got it!
E – Expect to be afraid. Why wouldn’t you be? This is pretty damn frightening. So don’t be surprised that you are and, for heaven’s sake, don’t be disappointed with yourself. Here’s another E – Everyone is afraid, at least from time to time. If they say they’re not, then they are either made of ice or not telling the truth. Just my opinion.
A – Ask for some help if you need it. Call, email, use Facebook, FaceTime, Zoom, Skype. Lord, there are no excuses for not being able to reach someone these days. Staying connected really matters right now. Call someone up and tell them you’re afraid. If they say you shouldn’t live in fear, tell them your dog needs to go to the bathroom and hang up.
R – Redirect your attention. Find something to do. I don’t care if it’s meditation, taking a walk, baking a cake, learning a new language, or painting your overgrown toenails. Just do it. Turn your mind towards something else. If the news is on, turn it off. At least for a little while. Go find something to do.
Rumi says to “welcome and entertain” our feelings, to “be grateful for whoever comes.” I can’t tell you I’m grateful for my fear. I’m just not that evolved, I guess.
So, dear Rumi, I’m not entertaining my fear, as you suggest. I’m not snuggling up with it or even fixing it a cup of coffee in the mornings. I’m not going to let it take over my household, but it does look like it’s going to be here a while.
What I am doing is buckling down, and with hope by my side, learning to live with this visitor named Fear. It’s my home, after all, and Fear is just going to have to learn to live with me!
It is a grit-filled grace that enables us to make difficult decisions in the face of a sometimes desperate reality, choices that either spring us forward in the evolutionary process or threaten to do us in as a species.
–Judy Cannato, Radical Amazement, p. 64
Cannato’s use of the term “grit-filled” to describe grace captured me. It’s not just the blessing of grace that is holding us up in this desperate time but also determination and firmness of mind and spirit. This grit is embedded in the grace we’re receiving right now just like affection and warmth is embedded in those hugs and handshakes we can’t receive.
No one knows for sure how long this virus will last. We’re all making difficult choices about how to keep ourselves and others safe. Our most critical far reaching choice, however, may be how we are going to respond as a collective when this is over.
This virus is creating the most global suffering of any kind I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime. You too, perhaps. Not that I believe the virus was “sent to” us by whatever might do that kind of sending, but I do wonder what it means for us whose future, some would argue, hangs in the balance.
Great suffering seems to be the catalyst that creates a path of transformation within individuals and for societies as a whole. All civilizations undergo major shifts that move them along in their evolutionary process. Surely this virus is not for naught. Surely, there is a huge shift underway for us.
We will eventually get through this. Exhausted and traumatized, no doubt, but we will come through this darkness and out the other side.
It is said that the Chinese symbol for crisis is composed of two characters, meaning danger and opportunity. I believe that new opportunities for us to live differently in every way will present themselves when this danger has passed.
I pray that these opportunities are so profound and obvious that we can’t possibly miss them. I pray that we are so awakened to the “grit-filled grace” that got us through this experience, that the only response we can give when these opportunities arrive is a “Yes” so powerful that it will be heard around the world and into the heavens.