Make some impossible magic

Boy riding a bike on a dock out towards a lake.

“At times like these, we need to find people who can believe in impossible things.”

Re-posting a story from a recent edition of Lucian James’ remarkable Kō Strategies newsletter. This is about an ambitious plan to levitate.

The Kō Strategy No.14: LEVITATE

So yes, my friend Hiro plans to levitate. He’s a Japanese yoga teacher and an enthusiast of esoterica. He trained with Naruse Masaharu. And Naruse Masaharu is famous for his levitating.

But Hiro is very disarming about the levitating. He’ll tell you he hasn’t achieved it…yet. But he promises, with the same nonchalance as someone committing to a half-marathon,

“In the future, I will levitate.”

There’s something very powerful when you have a goal that might be impossible. And when you make a serious and determined effort to get to that place which might not exist.

And the impossible goal – for Hiro – translates into concrete action. It informs his yoga practice – everything he does is shot through with the possibility of flight. It inspires his research into esoteric pathways and into the people he seeks out to train. The spark in his eyes? That’s wonder, and it’s contagious. Anyone who encounters Hiro feels an urge to chase their own impossible.

Meanwhile, he holds the impossibility lightly. If you talk to him about levitating, he knows simultaneously that it might not be possible – for him or for anyone – but impossible doesn’t dampen his passion for the pursuit. It comes from a place of wonder, not effort.

Hiro talks about magic a lot. Not the kind that involves sleight of hand, but the profound magic wielded by the imagination. Real magic is the art of channeling the imagination with such discipline that it reshapes the tangible world. This is alchemy.

And in alchemy, the impossible pursuit of the philosopher’s stone was really a process of evolution for the alchemist. It’s less about turning lead into gold and more a transformative process. An impossible goal has such an effect on you that it forces you to change, to create, to be inspired. And that transforms you. Solve et coagula.

A key theme repeatedly found in alchemy – and esoteric Japanese disciplines – is the idea that the practitioner can only succeed in the work if it is approached with purity of intent, with a heart free of ulterior agendas. If you approach it with ego, the magic won’t work. There’s a safety catch.

I’ve been thinking of Hiro a lot recently, since there’s a mood of heaviness in the world, a relentless practicality, a sense of feeling powerless.

At times like these, we need a breakthrough, we need impossible goals and magical thinking.

At times like these, we need to find people who can believe in impossible things.

When people say “impossible” they usually mean either they don’t want to do it (a motivation problem), or they can’t imagine it (an imagination problem). But impossible doesn’t need to be an obstacle, impossible can also be a fuel.

So I’m channeling Hiro at the moment. And so can you. Focus your energy at something that seems impossible and take the pursuit of it incredibly seriously.

And at the risk of taking an esoteric step too far here, Kazuo Ohno once riffed about impossibility in his great Steel Door Theory which I seem to be frequently banging on about lately…

“The next time you stand in front of a steel door why don’t you try convincing yourself that you could pass through it, rather than simply dismissing the idea as far-fetched. One thing is for sure: those who doubt themselves won’t be able to pull it off. Yet if you firmly believe that you’ll succeed as you go to put your foot forward, who knows but that you might’ve already passed clean through that door. I’m convinced that we can overcome our inbuilt fears. It’s force of habit that makes us cling so tenaciously to our self-doubts. Obviously, if considered from a conventional view-point, how could anybody conceivably pass through a steel-faced door? You’ll never escape the prison of the self if you continue looking at life in that way. Once you feel your mind holding your feet back, you should already be on the move.” Kazuo Ohno’s World: from Without and Within

Be like Hiro.

Be like Kazuo.

Make some impossible magic.

Comments welcome!

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