When we look around us, we see what is, but there is also what isn’t. Possibility is the space between what is and what isn’t. Our creativity is the engine that moves what is merely possible to what is actual in our lives. An egg is a possible omelette. Clay is the possibility of an unlimited number of shapes. Everything that exists is what it is, but it is also what it can be if the right conditions prevail.

The huge piece of Carrera marble was potentially the David of Michelangelo. When asked how he sculpted the David, Michelangelo replied that he just chipped away everything that wasn’t David. Each stroke of the chisel meant David was closer to existing. Each step we take is like one of Michelangelo’s chisel strokes. It changes where we are and moves us to a new place. If we choose our steps correctly, we will get to where we want to be. We will transform what is merely possible into what is actual. Let me share a personal example.

When I returned from my active military service I wanted to study philosophy. The requirements to be accepted into Fordham’s Master’s program in philosophy required at least 20 undergraduate credits in philosophy and at least a B+ average. I had zero philosophy credits and just barely a C average with my engineering degree from NYU. I met with the chairman of the philosophy department. I was 26 years old and had been out of school for 4 years. He kindly and politely told me the requirements and suggested that perhaps I might want to consider some other option for my future.

That was the actuality, but I didn’t look just at that. I was committed to  get to philosophy somehow. I was thinking about possibilities. I asked him if I went back to College and started all over again majoring in philosophy if I could then qualify for the MA program.

I could see in his eyes he was mildly startled. He had told me a polite no, but I wasn’t listening. We stared at each other for a bit, but he could see I wasn’t going to go away. Finally, he said that if I took some undergraduate philosophy credits, and my grades were good enough, I could reapply. That’s what I did. I took 18 credits of undergraduate philosophy in a year and a half while I was working two six-day a week jobs and commuting 120 miles a day. I got into the master’s program.

I tell this personal example in some detail because I think it illustrates what I mean about possibility. We have to accept where we are, that is true. But where we are is just that, a starting place. We can go wherever we choose from there to other places that we want to be. You just have to choose the possibilities from step to step. It wasn’t instantaneous, but 6 years after that conversation with the chairman, I was teaching philosophy in a liberal arts school in New Jersey.

Look to what you want, find the steps you need to take to get there, and as Nike says, “Do it!”


About The Practical Philosopher

I am a retired Philosophy professor. I taught philosophy for 43 years, and I would like to share some of what I have found pursuing the fascinating journey of philosophy.
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