Does belief take practice?
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
— Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, 1871
I read Lewis Carroll’s Alice books for the first time this year, and for a dreamy, whimsical story first told to 3 children on a lake during a cool summer day day, the words hit me like an oncoming truck. Simply, something about the story just whacked me over the head and screamed “LISTEN TO THE WISE CHARACTERS OF THIS DREAM WORLD AND WAKE THE HELL UP.”
I can’t seem to shake this particular quote and how absolutely plainly the Queen of Hearts delivers these words. In fact, when she says this to Alice, it’s passed off as a throwaway line (as most of the shining moments of wisdom are in this dream of a children’s story). But it got me wondering, what is the connection between believing in the impossible and making the impossible a reality? As the Queen so flippantly argues, does the practice of believing make the becoming possible?
The more I meditate on this, the more I think so. I think about the power of writing dreams down on paper, of crystallizing them in some tangible way. I think about what writing those words day after day does to your brain, why putting them in a place you frequent is so impactful; how over time, just being exposed to the message affects your subconscious and thus your way of being in the world. How the words we hear and the things we observe over and over as children influences our belief in what is achievable, and normal, and accessible, as adults.
It strikes me that you can try on belief as you would a new style. It may be something you’ve always wanted or admired in others, like a certain accessory, outfit, colour palette, or style of shoe, and just have never had the courage to try on yourself before. But if you keep practicing that new style, soon it doesn’t seem like something that’s only meant for others to engage in while you merely observe — soon, that new style starts to feel like you.
Before long, it becomes a part of you even when you’re not actively thinking about it. You reach for the outfit you would never have worn before you just did, again and again, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. And then you start to do this over and over again, giving less and less of a thought to this style that has become a part of your identity as time goes on.
I think that belief can be like that. It can become part of you, part of how you carry yourself in the world, part of how you present yourself to others, and part of how you think of yourself. It can be there when you need it most, at those moments when the impossible could become the possible. Except whatever’s happening in those moments, it doesn’t feel impossible anymore, because you didn’t just randomly get there one day. You practiced believing you would get there, putting yourself on the path, every day, to what once seemed impossible and now feels perfectly achievable.
The more you practice belief, the more you actively engage with it, the more it ingrains itself into you. It becomes part of your identity and the energy you exchange with the people and events that carve that path to achieving “the impossible.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
The Queen clearly believes in the practice of belief in the same way that most people, including myself believe that brushing your teeth leads to a healthy set of dentals. Her tone is so matter of fact. If this, then that.
Is it really that simple? I don’t know.
But certainly, if one wants to achieve what looks to be the impossible from one’s current view, it’s an exceptional place to start.