The Necessity of Doing the Impossible

Endurance’s rotation is 67 RPM.CASE

Get ready to mach up spin with retro thrust.Cooper

It’s not possible.CASE

No, it’s necessary.Cooper


What I love about Interstellar is that it’s a story about ordinary men, doing the impossible, out of necessity.docking2

If we’re honest with ourselves, we can all identify areas where we’ve failed to do what’s necessary, precisely because it seemed impossible at the time.

Elon Musk said, “If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it.” This from a man who excels at doing the (apparently) impossible because of its (obvious) necessity.

Starting a successful electric car company? Impossible. Yet today Tesla has a bigger market cap than Chrysler.

Starting a successful rocket company? Impossible. Yet SpaceX regularly lifts cargo to the International Space Station.

Establishing a self-sustaining human colony on Mars. Impossible? Just give him time.

Making the human race multi-planetary (as Elon is doing) or literally saving humanity (as Matthew McConaughey does in Interstellar) certainly qualifies as “important enough” to do against all odds. What else crosses that threshold of “important enough”?

…is ending mass killings in America important enough?

…is educating 67 million girls important enough?

…is ending sex trafficking important enough?

…is ending hunger and childhood malnutrition important enough?

…is becoming a more peaceful and compassionate society important enough?

…is cleaning up carbon pollution to ensure a stable climate for our children important enough?Elon-Quote

These are all real problems that you can take real action to help solve today.

They also seem variously very difficult, extremely difficult, or impossible.

But are they really impossible?

Or are they necessary?

Is it necessary that we should fear for our children’s lives when they go off to school? Is it necessary that not even our churches are safe anymore?

At one time it probably would have seemed impossible that we would ever get to this point, where mass shootings happen with such regularity.

Yet here we are.

“What can I do about that?” You might say, “I’m just one person. These problems are too big. I can’t do anything about it.”

“I can’t,” says Luke Skywalker, trying to raise his X-wing from the bog. “It’s too big,”

“Size matters not,” says Yoda. “Judge me by my size, do you?” And lifts the X-wing.


Luke saw that it was impossible. Yoda saw that it was necessary.

You have to ask: what’s the definition of “impossible”?

Impossible is just something we haven’t figured out how to do yet. Before the Wright brothers, flying machines were “impossible”. They were something that couldn’t be done within the current way of thinking. But they became possible in a new context. It was impossible, then it became necessary, and now we can hardly imagine a world without airplanes.

What’s “impossible”? Impossible is nothing.JO-D-131019-MuhammadAli01

It happens like this: you’re put in a tight spot, and so you do something you previously thought was impossible. You hit the last-minute buzzer shot. You lift one more rep. You stand up under the log, because your team is counting on you.

You prove to yourself you are capable of more than you thought.

So what’s impossible for you, really?

What’s impossible for us?

Cooper docked with the Endurance because it was necessary. The computer said it was impossible. But humans have a knack for doing the impossible.

Let’s do that now.



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