September 25: nothing is impossible; the two bowers

There is a poster on London Underground with the message Nothing is Impossible or, rather I think, Impossible is Nothing, which is the highly conventional and untrue message of the contemporary world. It is being drilled into us by celebrities and sportspeople, as well as politicians at all hours of the day. Question: what is your message to the kids? Answer: You can be whatever you want. It is, of course, the great American lie. Anecdotally, the odd fish will slip out of the net and be able to escape the index that their class and upbringing has branded on them, but these are astonishing exceptions, which is why they get the coverage. Anecdote is not data. I’m sorry to be the bearer of this news and such a kill joy, but someone must deliver the facts. Most children dreaming of celebrity success remain in the obscure.

However, it is worth preserving this mantra as an aspiration. What you need is two bowers (Keats has a liking for this word). The bower where you house your aspiration where Impossible is Nothing and the other bower, truth bower, where you face the facts, some things are impossible, Impossible is Something, we do not live in Mickey Mouse world. There are two bowers which we must harbour simultaneously and they contradict each other. It is a kind of Schroedinger’s Cat episode. The bower that helps us get the best we can out of the world and ourselves and the other bower, the one no-one talks about, that refuses to make suckers of us all.

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