It was a great honor to be asked to sing “The Impossible Dream” (1965, music by Mitch Leigh, lyrics by Joe Darion) at my high school graduation in May 1971. Along with an amphitheater filled with parents and students, another individual was present, a representative from the University of Arizona department of music. I planned to attend there in the Fall of 1971 and major in vocal education. So, this man’s presence was quite important to me.
When nervousness from singing “under the stars” in front of a multitude of people caused me to sing very flat on the final note of the crucial phrase, “This is my QUEST,” I was devastated. But there was little I could do. Because at that moment, compounded with the nervousness of singing to such a large audience, I had added a vocal blunder to the mix. Ugh!
At that moment my rendition of “The Impossible Dream” was rendered truly impossible to me.
I loved the Man of La Mancha, and had enjoyed singing songs from the score; the lyrics to “The Impossible Dream” were almost magical in their appeal to a young man:
To have a quest, a goal in life, a purpose, and be undaunted by forces outside of you, indomitable in spirit, matchless in courage. It is virtually every young man’s dream.
Then later, the memorable refrain which seals the pledge:
By the way, this was not the last time I sang flat in front of an audience, or allowed nervousness to interfere with my singing or speaking. You would need a notebook to record all the various occasions I could list. But you see, that’s part of the beauty of it: I have never stopped singing or performing since that night.
The thing about a quest, a heartfelt conviction, a spirit of determination, an indefatigable drive . . . is that the bearer is not deterred by apparent impossibility. For he or she looks beyond what is visible, sees the invisible, then makes the invisible visible.
Now he or she may do so while trembling, hands shaking, knees knocking, voice quivering, etc. The goal is not to become unflappable (although that would be nice); rather, to never quit on the dream. Any real “dream” has an element of impossibility to it.
As December 2021 rolls onto the scene, today, I am reminded of a “dream” that buoyed the spirits of ancient Jews for generations: the coming of a Savior, a Messiah, a Deliverer who would right all political wrongs, restore peace to a troubled populace, and reign with unprecedented aplomb. The “Christ” part of Christmas.
But that did not happen. At least, not in the way they had hoped and dreamed.
What did occur was even more impossible than the anticipated military coup of which they dreamt.
A teenage girl, living her ordinary life, became pregnant in a truly impossible way. But the male child she delivered months later came in the most ordinary way. He was raised by ordinary parents, people like you and me, who made child rearing mistakes and sometimes exhibited less than lofty attitudes. He was like us in every way. Not regal. Not wealthy. Not particularly handsome.
Very possible . . . on the surface.
The announcement of angels around his humble birth was witnessed by only a handful of shepherds, their glorious singing heard only by a few. Nothing worldwide. No regional significance. Almost unnoticed. The visit of the Magi when he was young was known only to them, the stargazers, and a few prognosticators. The King’s fear of possible competition from him caused a violent local stir for a bit, but eventually subsided. His wisdom in the temple at age 12 was remarkable, but . . . nothing earth shattering, apparently.
When he finally began to teach and gather disciples his intentions began to unfold. But not clearly to most; they were still expecting the regal, the political, the matchless rule of a man in Judea who would right all wrongs done to his people.
But he had an even more impossible dream: to deal with the sin of the whole world, to reign in heaven, and to hobble the power of the Evil One until his ultimate demise once and for all at the END of all things.
And he did not stop. Nervousness did not deter him; fear did not win the day. He followed his quest even when those closest to him did not agree with him, or understand him. Then he literally “marched into hell for a heavenly cause.”
Overthrowing the Roman Empire would have been possible. Making a way for forgiveness of sin, impossible. Coming to earth in a chariot of fire with angels blazing the way would have been possible (although an amazing sight to see). Being born an ostensibly bastard male child to a lowly teenage girl, yet destined to lead others in unprecedented spiritual renewal, impossible.
Christmas is the reminder that impossible dreams are the best gifts to give and receive in this season. When you unwrap them, rest assured they will set a new course for your life. So, “follow that star” that led wise men to Jesus so many centuries ago. Then pledge to never forsake the quest to:
As we look at the shape of our country, our world, we can easily be discouraged. Most of us only see the visible. In fact, many would say that is all any sensible person can see. As a result we hunker down in fear, self preservation, and defensiveness; we wear anger like a suit of clothes.
But some things are invisible. Like impossible things. To be seen . . . they require a quest.