The calendar has finally turned to March and spring is almost here! If this was our first spring to see grass turn green, flowers burst from the ground, and robins hatch from tiny turquoise eggs we might think, “Impossible!” Springtime is a season of hope, optimism and endless possibilities.
In his distinctive voice, the late Dr. Norman Vincent Peale said, “I challenge you to become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see the possibilities ~ always see them, for they’re always there!”
Peale, who died in 1993, was a minister and bestselling author of The Power of Positive Thinking. Peale also had a successful radio broadcast called The Art of Living, and I recently listened to a recording of him discussing optimism and the idea of being a possibilitarian. Peale credited a friend for introducing him to the word and explained, “A possibilitarian is one who sees the possibilities rather than the impossibilities.”
Peale recounted a time when he had a problem that really had him stumped. “No matter how I tried, I just couldn’t see the silver lining to that cloud,” he said. So he went to his friend, a possibilitarian, who said he never did see a problem that didn’t have a soft spot if you just keep poking. “Sure as daybreak,” Peale exclaimed, “he found that spot!” Peale said he learned there are always possibilities where there seem to be none at all.
Emily Dickinson wrote, “I dwell in possibility.” Her poem 466, compares possibility to a physical structure in which one can live. Her house of possibility is a strong one with windows, doors, rooms and an “everlasting roof”. She welcomes visitors to this house and “gathers paradise” through possibilities.
So how do we learn to dwell in possibility? In the short radio broadcast I listened to, Peale said possibilitarians have a simple, honest optimism toward life. “Although optimism begins in the heart, you’ll find it has a way of working its way up through your mind until it shows on your face and in everything you do,” he said.
Make no mistake, Peale doesn’t believe optimists are ones who stick their heads in the sand and ignore realities of life. He said, “A true optimist sees all the difficulties, but unlike the negative thinkers, the optimist sees difficulty in terms of solutions.”
I’ve been accused of being an eternal optimist, which may be a result of reading so many books with happy endings. When faced with the impossible, I think of a song from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. “It’s possible! For a plain yellow pumpkin to become a golden carriage. It’s possible! For a plain country bumpkin and a prince to join in marriage. It’s possible!” Sure it’s a fairy tale, but it’s also a joyous reminder that impossible things happen every day.
Go ahead and call me an optimist, a dreamer or a dewy-eyed dope, but I prefer the term possibilitarian. Springtime gives us all reason to believe in the impossible. I stand with Peale, Dickinson, Cinderella and Audrey Hepburn who said, “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, I’m possible!” §
“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: you haven’t.”
~ Thomas Edison