Thursday, October 5, 2017

50 for 50 day 29: Radical possibility

This is post 29 of 50 blog posts celebrating my 50th birthday. You can see the rest here.

I had the pleasure of attending a reading recently by Nicole Krauss, one of my favorite writers. She spoke about many meaningful and important things; one that stuck with me was an observation that small children have a limitless way of looking at the world. They don't yet know what's possible or not and so it is all possible. As they age (as we age) we understand limitations more and more, so while we become more able to function independently, we also close ourselves off to possibility. If you've had the pleasure of spending time with any young children who start asking questions, then you know what I mean.

One of the potential roles of writers, storytellers, and other narrative artists is to remind ourselves of what might be beyond possible and without limitation. This is part of how I try to look at the world and, while it sometimes lands me in sticky mental places, it has helped me function in a world that sometimes seems too cold and cruel to be survived.

I get it, possibilities are not endless. Laws of physics, government, ethics and more limit what we can do. But I like playing with the possibilities.

Part of how I do this is by conjuring up my younger selves and seeing how they view the world. For example, five year old Laura is playful and creative, she sees possibilities the older me might overlook. Don't worry, I'm not mentally ill, she isn't a psychotic break, but she is a piece of my imagination crafted into a particular shape. She and I can exist simultaneously, as some strands of physics suggests is possible anyway. Not only does she help me imagine more widely, I've been able to help that part of me feel safe in ways I might not have when I was that age. By imagining her into a place of comfort, I've been able to heal some of my old wounds and let go of some pain.

Another part of how I play with possibilities is by playing what if games. What if there were a person whose blood turned into rubies? What if everyone prioritized kindness? What if...

You might think this is all foolishness, but for me it's serious play. I needed every ounce of possibility I could find in order to survive Kevin's death. The possibility that there is something beyond this life. The possibility that in an alternate universe he was fine. The possibility that someday I might be able to breath again. I still need radical possibilities sometimes when the world seems particularly bleak.

As I've gotten older I've become more comfortable with my own oddities. I don't wince at my imagination anymore and I've accepted that trying to have the imagination of a five year old has helped me be more creative, more playful, and more hopeful. I might be less likely to try to act on the possibilities I dream up than I was at five, but I am also able to look at them and see them as tools I can use in tough times.

The world is hard enough. I'd rather live in one where the hopeful improbability might still sometimes be possible.

This is what 50 looks like. Possible.
(c)2017 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

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