Read-along-with-Anne: The Impossible 1

Posted on Nov 13, 2017 in Fieldnotes, Read Along

Kia ora. Kei to pēhea koutou?

For the next ten weeks of weekdays–that’s 55 days in total–I’ll be reading & writing about each piece in Paul Loeb’s edited volume, The Impossible Will Take A Little While: Perseverance and Hope in Troubled Times.

I’m not interested in whether or not the collection is “complete.” (Of course it’s not. How could it be?)

But I am interested in meeting each one of these writers in good faith, and in listening to what they have to say. (I’m an accumulative empiricist, here for more answers, not fewer.)

This isn’t an academic exercise, but may take an academic tone at times. (I’m afraid that’s largely unavoidable for me, but I hope it won’t happen too often or get too boring!)

“Hope is believing in spite of the evidence, and then watching the evidence change.” – Jim Wallis

“Hope is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart.” – Vaclav Havel

Hope can be many things, but is most often considered an internal quality or state. I think hope is relational–it requires others. That’s why I’m reading and thinking out loud, in front of others.

Haere mai! You are most welcome to join me, but please don’t feel any obligation to respond. Action takes many shapes.


The first section of the book is titled “Seeds of the Possible” and it begins with an excerpt from Diane Ackerman’s personal account of volunteering at a suicide hotline, A Slender Thread.

I immediately think, What a wonderful place to start, with death! But Ackerman isn’t finding hope in or through death; she uses suicide, and its avoidance, to speak of options and choices and “the right to choose one’s destiny.” Hope, for Ackerman, is simply found in other ways, and in the difficulty of locating and opening the “windows and doors” that can let us out of our “tunnel” visions. The stress of trying to pry open these hopeful spaces clearly weighs heavily on her mind and spirit, yet there is such hope when she learns that spaces do open up!

I know the feeling of trying–and failing–to find these spaces, as well as the grace that comes with success. I know this hope. But the paragraph that kills me is the one where she breaks from her conversation with suicidal woman Louise, to note the following:

“Breathless, she sounds like a child trying to tell a story faster than her tumbling words. I was rushing her. She wasn’t finished her lamentation. She still needs to be heard, so I sit quietly and listen, a borrowed heart.”

What if hope is fully listening to others’ lamentations? Especially the ones that aren’t finished because the suffering has been so long.

What does it mean to actually lend our hearts to others? What does it mean to actually borrow another’s heart?

Noho ora mai,