The Voice of Possibility
by Jennifer Paros
I read an article about an Australian woman who gave birth to twins prematurely; they were born at 27 weeks. The girl was fine but the boy was declared dead by the doctor after twenty minutes of attempted resuscitation. The mother unwrapped the baby and laid him against her skin, held him and talked to him for two hours until he began showing signs of life. He seemed to gasp for air; the doctor dismissed it as a reflex action, but when the mother fed the baby breast milk from her finger his breathing normalized. Soon he opened his eyes. And what seemed to be The Impossible became Possible.
Each of us has dreams, thoughts, and ideas – some of which are shared and some of which remain purely our own. And part of that stream of thought is one that flies in the face of realism, common sense, or proof. It is the thought of pure possibility that can help determine and define our path, and help us find the opportunity to offer our greatest good to others.
In the case of the Australian woman, she wasn’t consciously standing up for the voice of possibility, yet her instinctive actions of holding and nurturing the baby, speaking to him of his life, his sister, and what would be coming for him all did. Aware or not, she was affirming the possibility of his hearing her words and receiving her touch.
We applaud those who fly in the face of collective agreement, challenging the status quo: the spontaneous remissions, the scientific breakthroughs, the breaking of world records. We speak of these as wondrous and applaud the audacity of those who redefine what is possible. But when it comes time to claim that voice of challenge within ourselves − the voice that accepts no limitation other than as defined by our interest − we waver. Yet it is this voice and the act of bringing it forward in full expression that makes us cheer. It is bearing witness to the affirmation of the Voice of Possibility that touches us when Susan Boyle sings or Michael Phelps wins his eighth gold medal.
Perhaps the feeling within us that something is possible even though denied by popular opinion (or even ourselves) is the key to us sharing our most valuable asset with the world.
In 1976 a book entitled Son-Rise by Barry Kaufman documented the author’s severely autistic son’s journey. Raun, who was eighteen months old at the time, was diagnosed as autistic and retarded and it was recommended he be institutionalized. But instead, the author and his wife developed an at-home, intensive model for working with him. By the age of five, Raun was no longer considered autistic and was attending kindergarten.
There was no reason for the Kaufmans to believe it was possible for their son to speak, make eye contact, and rejoin the world. There were no case studies reflecting evidence of the possibility at that time. Yet, they allowed themselves to act from their heart’s desire and disregard the “impossible”. And it was this action that led them to contribute the best of what they had to offer both to Raun and to the greater community.
Seeking evidence is a sure way to become untethered from our dreams and desires. Evidence only reflects what hasbeen done or witnessed, not all of what can be.
And in the arts – writing specifically—it is easy to become burdened by statistics that do not speak to the ongoing possibilities. But part of being human means experiencing what was once perceived as impossible becoming possible. And the desire for this kind of expansion is built into each of us in our own unique way.
We are meant to witness these breakthroughs in perception, these changing ideas of what is possible. It is how we roll. “Impossible” has already been revealed as a changing status. So, let us deliberately create the expansion ourselves, by allowing our heart’s desire to override impossible every time, redefining possible in the best way we can.
Jennifer Paros is a writer, illustrator, and author of Violet Bing and the Grand House (Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle.