We should have accepted it by now. We’re immersed in a world of incredible wonders—from flying machines to a flying, spinning planet, to pocket-sized smart phones that connect us to anyone, anywhere, to the ability to breathe, pump blood, digest food, and solve math equations (some of us) simultaneously without being conscious of how we do any of it.
Yet it’s shockingly easy to fall into a blasé sense of rationality about what’s possible—limited to that which already is—and skepticism about everything else. Yes, we’re communicating with people on the other side of the globe through binary code bounced off a satellite hurtling through space, but hey, so annoying, my connection is slow today. And world peace? An end to human trafficking? The blind ascending Mt. Everest? Don’t be ridiculous! That’s for dreamers!
The human mind is an amazing organ. Too bad we so often use it to limit ourselves. I’ll never forget the weekend I spent with a group of teenagers at an outdoor ropes course. We were learning teamwork, diversity appreciation, and the idea that we might face the fear, but do it anyway. For me it was a three-day demonstration in how many times I told myself something was impossible, only to acknowledge twenty minutes later that we’d done it. It was embarrassing. When we finally succeeded in getting our entire team—of all shapes, sizes, and fitness levels—over a 12-foot wall, I gave up. Not that scaling a wall twice our height was so incredible: but why had I told myself it couldn’t be done when, without too much difficulty, we’d done it?
That’s what the contributors to this month’s issue have done: transformed what most of us dismiss as impossible into the new reality. More important, they’ve done it, not with technology primarily, but with courage, perseverance, and one would have to say…love.
Our interviews are with Sabriye Tenberken, a young German woman whose phenomenal story is the subject of the documentary Blindsight; Somaly Mam, the Cambodian sex trafficking survivor who now crusades tirelessly against human trafficking; and Paul K. Chappell, the West Point graduate and Iraq vet who now champions the end of war. “People are not naturally violent, but naturally loving,” he says. “Politicians manipulate our love to get us to go to war.”
This month’s fiction includes an excerpt from Shantaram, the spellbinding, real-life novel by Gregory David Roberts whose life has been one impossible adventure after another; and a short story about love from one of our favorite contributors, Brian Doyle. We also include two memoirs by Larry Carter, on seemingly minor events that changed the world in the 1960s, and an essay on moving heaven and earth.
By the way, that’s Shane Dorian, an American surfer from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, riding the monster wave. The photographer is unknown.