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Esquire, Impossibility, and Toad the Wet Sprocket

Thomas Whitley

"Impossible" is a lie. Over and over again, we humans have shown that the impossible is possible. Crossing oceans, exploring space, and reaching beyond every dimension of our physical selves. The whole of human experience - the best of human experience - has been the confounding of the impossible.

This is how Esquire's "Impossible Issue" (August 2010) begins it's cover story. Esquire has long been known for its place in the fashion world, but it's greater impact on our society is its literary aptitude, even having such greats as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald as contributors in the early days and helping to establish the validity of New Journalism. I have subscribed to the magazine for over 5 years now, enjoying the sartorial insight and soaking up the literary brilliance. The "Impossible Issue," though, stands out above many others, for not only is the writing ironic,  insightful, and edgy, but it is hope-filled. Hope is expressed in the ability of humanity to better ourselves and to push beyond limits that currently seemed insurmountable. This hopeful tenor is present because humanity has already pushed beyond limits that were previously set.

As I was thinking about all of this during a drive the other day, "Walk on the Ocean" by Toad the Wet Sprocket (one of the best and most under-rated 90's groups) came on my iPod. The first verse seemed quite apropros:

We spotted the ocean at the head of the trail / Where are we going, so far away? / Somebody told me this is the place / Where every thing's better and every thing's safe.

You see, the place where "every thing's better and every thing's safe" is when humanity is confounding the impossible; when we "walk on the ocean." It is impossible to sail around the world. It is impossible to restore that relationship. You can never be a lawyer. You'll never fully trust someone. It is impossible to find true love. While these statements often resound with the realist (pessimist?) in me, the hopeful in me knows the futility of these statements. For being able to unequivocally assert that "'Impossible' is a lie," means that one must necessarily harbor hope - hope in themselves, hope in humanity, hope in good, hope in God. Without hope "impossible" is all we know, for we cannot strive beyond ourselves, we cannot believe in anything greater or anything better.

Today embrace with me the impossibility of impossibility and richness of hope.