Quotations about   impossibility

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In dreams and in love there are no impossibilities.

[Álomban és szerelemben nincs lehetetlenség.]

János Arany
János Arany (1817-1882) Hungarian poet, writer, translator, journalist [John Arany]
(Attributed)
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Quoted in James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893).
Added on 21-Sep-21 | Last updated 21-Sep-21
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The difficult is what takes a little time; the impossible is what takes a little longer.

Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930) Norwegian explorer, scientist, diplomat, humanitarian
Quoted in Listener (14 Dec 1939)
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Added on 15-Oct-20 | Last updated 15-Oct-20
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Always in a moment of extreme danger things can be done which had previously been thought impossible. Mortal danger is an effective antidote for fixed ideas.

Erwin Rommel (1891-1944) German field marshal
The Rommel Papers, ch. 11 [ed. B. H. Liddell Hart, (1953)]
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Added on 1-Aug-17 | Last updated 1-Aug-17
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Impossibilities are merely things of which we have not learned, or which we do not wish to happen.

Charles Chesnutt (1858-1932) American author, essayist, civil rights activist, lawyer
The Marrow of Tradition (1901)
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Added on 31-Jul-17 | Last updated 31-Jul-17
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The capacity of a human mind to believe devoutly in what seems to me to be the highly improbable — from table tapping to the superiority of their own children — has never been plumbed. Faith strikes me as intellectual laziness, but I don’t argue with it — especially as I am rarely in a position to prove that it is mistaken.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Stranger in a Strange Land, ch. 18 (1960 ed., publ. 1991)
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An elided version is found in the 1961 published edition, in ch. 13.
Added on 14-Jul-17 | Last updated 14-Jul-17
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With a view to poetry, an impossible thing that is believable is preferable to an unbelievable thing that is possible.

[πρός τε γὰρ τὴν ποίησιν αἱρετώτερον πιθανὸν ἀδύνατον ἢ ἀπίθανον καὶ δυνατόν.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Poetics [Περὶ ποιητικῆς, De Poetica], ch. 24 / 1461b.11 (c. 335 BC) [tr. Sachs (2006)]
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Original Greek. Alternate translations:

  • "The poet should prefer probable impossibilities to improbable possibilities." [tr. Butcher (1895)]
  • "A likely impossibility is always preferable to an unconvincing possibility." [tr. Bywater (1909)]
  • "You should prefer a plausible impossibility to an unconvincing possibility." [tr. Margoliouth (1911)]
  • "For poetic effect a convincing impossibility is preferable to that which is unconvincing though possible." [tr. Fyfe (1932)]
  • "Probable impossibilities are preferable to implausible possibilities." [tr. Halliwell (1986)]
  • "In relation to the needs of the composition, a believable impossibility is preferable to an unbelievable possibility." [tr. Janko (1987)]
  • "With respect to the requirement of art, the probable impossible is always preferable to the improbable possible."
  • "For the purposes of poetry a convincing impossibility is preferable to an unconvincing possibility."
Added on 21-Feb-11 | Last updated 10-May-21
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Do not permit what you cannot do to interfere with what you can do.

John Wooden (1910-2010) American basketball player and coach
Coach Wooden One-on-One, “Day 25” (2003) [with Jay Carty]
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Variant: "Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Sep-20
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But the only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) British writer
“Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination,” Profiles of the Future (1962)

Also known as Clarke's Second Law.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Jun-21
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