In learning how to deal with the struggles in my life, the song “The Impossible Dream” from the musical “Man of La Mancha” has become a spiritual mantra for my quest to come closer to the Lord by conquering my weaknesses and fighting “the unbeatable foe”. I have thought a lot about the meaning of each line in the song and how it can apply to my life and my quest.
Following the below song lyrics, I review the words of each line in the song with my personal interpretations.
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe,
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go.
To right the unrightable wrong,
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary,
To reach the unreachable star!
This is my quest to follow that star
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far;
To fight for the right without question or pause
To be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause!
And I know, if I’ll only be true to this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm when I’m laid to my rest.
And the world will be better for this
That one man scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable stars!
From “Man of La Mancha”
Lyrics by Joe Darion, Music by Mitch Leigh
“To dream the impossible dream”
It’s like a challenge to dare to dream, to accomplish something that may seem to be impossible, either because of our own insecurities and doubts, or because of what is generally accepted in society as being either very difficult or impossible. But taking the step forward in allowing ourselves to dream that which seems impossible, begins to make it possible.
"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."
- T.S. Eliot
“To fight the unbeatable foe”
Who is the unbeatable foe? Does such a being exist? If anyone, we might think it to be our own selves. Yet our true inner self is the force which is doing the dreaming and the fighting; so it becomes a matter of letting the inner self, or spirit, to become the captain of the army which is fighting. Fighting who? Most likely, that would be Satan. But is he unbeatable? I don’t believe so, though I know he can put up a good fight. He is our enemy and would love us to believe that he is unbeatable, so that we will lay down our weapons and quit trying. When we do that, he has won. But it is we who hold the weapons and wear the armor, and as long as we hold fast to these, we shall beat the unbeatable foe.
"I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul." - William E. Henley
“To bear with unbearable sorrow”
Sorrow for sins, mistakes, grief for a loved one’s passing, un-kept promises – there are many ways in which we experience sorrow here on earth. I believe that when we are able to experience the burden of heavy sorrow, we taste a bit of the pain and sorrow the Savior had in our behalf at Gethsemane. He who bore the most unbearable sorrow of all can help us bear the sorrow we must have to overcome, conquer and improve. The extremity of unbearable sorrow can be the launching pad for our journey towards heaven, fueled by the Lord’s atonement and His love for us.
When we look upon our sins and mistakes as things which increased the burden of sorrow which fell upon the Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane, we can, and should, muster up greater determination to not do anything more which will have added more to His sorrow on our behalf.
"The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it." – Moliere
“To run where the brave dare not go”
At times in our lives, we are faced with the opportunity to stretch ourselves and take steps in directions we have not previously pursued, or down paths that frighten us. The courage it takes to face our fears and to pursue a path that we know will ultimately bless and benefit us, but which may also provide pain and soul-stretching, is tremendous. It requires that we have our eye on the end goal, the reward for blood, sweat and tears. It requires a no-matter-what-it-takes attitude. It requires that we “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope.” (2 Nephi 31:20)
Many who might otherwise seem brave may not dare to go down such paths. Only by inviting the strength of the Lord to be with us can we dare such a venture.
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." - Franklin D. Roosevelt
“To right the un-rightable wrong”
First off, nothing we do is “un-rightable”, or not able to be made right; unless, of course we deny the Holy Ghost. But we may believe sometimes that the wrong we have done is so bad, or has caused so much damage to ourselves or to others, that we are unable to fully overcome it and be completely forgiven. We need to truly believe in the Savior’s atonement, and to accept its power in our lives. We need to truly believe in ourselves, that we are capable of fully repenting, of being forgiven, and of having a change of heart. We need to look forward to the day that we no longer desire to sin, but seek only after righteousness.
Perhaps life has wronged us in some way we couldn't control, or we have been wronged by others. These types of wrongs can sometimes seem insurmountable, or "un-rightable". We can get so bogged down by their effects, that we are unable to move past them, and ultimately we fall victim to our own acceptance of them in our lives.
Satan wants us to believe that our lives are “un-rightable”. He wants us to accept the wrong situations in our lives as normal, or not worth the effort to remove. But I believe that the reward of increased happiness, spiritual strength and blessings, and the assurance of eternal salvation and exaltation are extremely worth any efforts we take to make our lives right. And, it is important to remember that, in the end, it really is the Lord who makes us right and relieves our burdens; it is through his infinite grace and mercy for us that we can be made right. We only need to take the first step and invite His love, grace and atoning power into our hearts and lives.
"I will write of him who fights and vanquishes his sins, who struggles on through weary years against himself…and wins." – Caroline B. LeRow
“To love pure and chaste from afar”
This is an interesting combination of words, which can have so much meaning. To have love which is pure and chaste for everyone would go a long way to making us more like the Savior. This kind of love given non-discriminatingly to others would change a lot of what we do and what we think. It would serve as a very strong armor in the battle for righteousness and against sin and temptation.
If we could only truly believe that we all are children of God, and that we all have both the right and responsibility to love and be loved in a pure and chaste manner, how could we ever desire to do anything to or with another person that wasn’t pure and chaste? This is the pure love of Christ, of which we all have a portion and need to seek to obtain or develop more.
Sometimes we need to learn to love “from afar”. To recognize that because of our differences, or challenges, or physical separation, our love will sometimes be at a distance. The distance can sometimes be hard to understand, but the love can and needs to be there and continue to grow. Sometimes a pure and chaste love can only occur when it is “from afar”.
"But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him." – Moroni 7:47
“To try when your arms are too weary”
To keep on trying after it seems we have become worn out from trying is a difficult thing to do. Yet, it seems that is where the real reward or benefit comes. The saying, “no pain, no gain”, is true in so many ways.
I’m reminded of the story of a man who was in the Martin Handcart Company, one of the many groups of Mormon pioneers who crossed the plains, who related his struggles and efforts to keep trying when his arms, legs and whole body were too weary from pulling a heavy handcart over the plains and Rocky Mountains. He told of how he would choose a landmark ahead of him and decide that when he reached it, he would quit, because he felt he couldn’t go on any further. After reaching the chosen landmark, he felt as if the cart was pushing him, and so he continued on. He bore testimony that it was the strength of the Lord and his angels that allowed him to go on.
I believe that there is an extra storage of strength for all of us to tap into, when we feel that our own is gone. If our pursuit is righteous, the Lord will “prepare a way for [us] that [we] may accomplish” whatever is required of us (see 1 Nephi 3:7).
To “try when your arms are too weary” is too have an attitude of never giving up, of relying on the Lord for extra strength, and of having faith that we can do it - because the Lord wants us to.
"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." – Philippians 4:13
“To reach the unreachable star”
By having an attitude of never giving up and having sufficient faith in the strength of the Lord, we are then able to reach heights, or stars, that would otherwise be unreachable to us. This is where the grace of the Lord comes into play – when we not only have done what we can do, but have exercised faith and earnestly sought and invited the Lord to take over and lift us higher.
Our part includes setting high goals, aiming high. A favorite thought of mine is that if you aim for the stars, you may only hit the top of the tree, but if you aim for the top of the tree, you may only hit the trunk. The Lord’s grace, when invited and applied, will allow us to aim for the stars and to hit or reach them.
What is the “unreachable star”? For me, it is to return to live with Heavenly Father in His kingdom and partake of all the blessings of Eternal Life with Him. And to do this with those I love. Sometimes, as I stumble through life, I wonder if I can ever prepare myself enough for that. Do I have what it takes to be worthy of such blessings? Maybe not on my own, but with the Lord’s strength and grace, I believe I do. So, it’s up to me to make room enough for Him and his grace in my life so that I will reach my star.
"To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life." - Robert Louis Stevenson
"This is my quest, to follow that star"
That word "quest" seems to really fit how I feel about what I'm after. A pursuit, a journey, a path with a goal. My quest to follow and reach that star is what motivates me onward - it is my purpose for living and for trying. My star is my vision of being complete, strong, purposeful and happy - living with God and those I love. It's a star, though far away, that continues to shine in the sky, twinkling as if to remind me of how pretty it is and how much I really do want to reach it.
So my life's journey must be to continue watching it and following it, and never losing sight of it.
"Man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" - Robert Browning
"No matter how hopeless, no matter how far"
Sometimes it can feel almost hopeless in pursuit of a goal which seems so far off or difficult to achieve. But that which is worth having is worth striving for. No pain, no gain. The prize is worth the price. I'm sure if I could only have a constant and clear vision of the glorious award and joy that awaits me in the celestial kingdom, I would do all I could all the time to achieve it. Ah, but that is where faith comes in. We are told and are given testimonies of that glory that we are striving for. It is our faith in the Lord and his gospel which keeps us moving forward "no matter how hopeless, no matter how far".
Building a strong faith and a determination to do what is required - whatever it takes - is what will carry us onward. A determination to not give up, to always get up when you fall, to make stepping stones out of stumbling blocks. You have to decide in your heart that reaching that star is of utmost importance and that you will not allow yourself to be deterred, slowed down or stopped. Dedication to a goal is the key to achieving it.
I must decide to continue being faithful and dedicated to righteousness and the pursuit of that star, "no matter how hopeless, no matter how far". It may be far, but I am sure it is not hopeless.
"The worth of every conviction consists precisely in the steadfastness with which it is held." - Jane Addams
"To fight for the right, without question or pause"
To fight- that's really what we are doing. We're in a battle against the devil and his cohorts, whose influences are around us everywhere, as well as all the negative situations in our world. It takes courage to go to battle, a courage fed by faith, testimony and a desire for something better. It also requires fear - a fear of what might be if we don't fight. It requires a good deal of confidence and trust in the Lord, our captain, that he will lead us through successfully, and trust in the strength of the armor that he has given us. The gospel itself, the scriptures, prayer, inspiration from the Holy Ghost, our covenants, the commandments, the temple and many other things make up the spiritual armor that we wear into battle.
It's strange how, even though we've been given so much strong, effective armor, that sometimes we choose not to wear it, or we decide to lower our shield. And, somehow we fool ourselves into thinking that by removing the armor or not carrying the shield, we will still be fine and unscathed in battle. Satan knows when our armor is removed and where our weak points are, and he will most assuredly target them.
Sometimes we "question or pause" in battle, when the going gets tough, or we lose faith and confidence. Or, maybe we pause because of an attractive distraction and feed a weakness. When we pause, we stop in our progress. We lose ground and Satan pushes us back. Effort already expended is wasted because we have to fight again to re-gain ground.
To be successful in fighting for the right, we must be so dedicated to the goal and so confident in the Lord and his armor, that we refuse to question or pause - and we march forward.
"Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." - Ephesians 6:13
"To be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause"
It seems there really is a battle going on, on the road to heaven. At times we are required to "march into hell", a period or series of very difficult challenges that can and do test our mettle and faith. It's keeping our eyes and thoughts on the "heavenly cause" that can help us through the hell. In facing and overcoming my life's challenges, I have had several marches through hell. The influence and impact of these have been quite strong at times. And although at times I have and do falter, I have an overall desire and will to march on towards heaven, even though I must pass through some hell.
Facing a particular problem, challenge or weakness, and working to conquer it can be very hellish. I have a testimony that Satan is real and he knows our weaknesses. When we pledge to overcome and do better, he pledges to knock down our resolve, and trip us on the way. So, our determination to reach the goal and our constant seeking for divine assistance becomes essential. We must be willing to endure the inevitable trial of our strength, faith and determination, knowing that the prize is worth the price - that reaching heaven is worth suffering through some hell.
"I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship." - Louisa May Alcott
"And I know if I'll only be true to this glorious quest"
To be true to the truth is the key. True in keeping the course and being dedicated to the cause - always - in everything I do. That is a daunting task and a quest in itself. Shakespeare, in his play "Hamlet", said "To thine own self be true". To be true to my own self is to follow the path which my heart and spirit dictates. It is being true to my inner self.
Recognizing that this truly is a glorious quest is also significant. It is glorious in that it is a path to glory. A way to achieve and experience glory.
What is glory, anyway? Without looking it up in the dictionary I would describe it as beautiful holiness, joy in perfection, peace and happiness in ultimate fulfillment. If that is what such a quest is, or leads to, then my inner (own) self greatly desires it. So, to get the rest of me to get there, too, I need to be diligent in following the course and "be true to this glorious quest".
"Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!" - Joseph Smith, D&C 128:22
"That my heart will lie peaceful and calm when I'm laid to my rest"
To leave this world with a peaceful and calm heart seems to be something everyone desires, yet it doesn't always happen. Many things can keep us from peace, but an inner peace is something that can and should be achieved before we die, no matter what our earthly circumstances. That inner peace is obtained by feeling like we have followed our heart and have tried to become one with God.
In trying to become one with God, I must continue to pursue my quest and reach that star. To know when I am dying or have died that I kept trying, kept improving and worked hard to develop a good relationship with the Lord will allow me to achieve a peaceful and calm heart.
"Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars." - Henry Van Dyke
"And the world will be better for this, that one man scorned and covered with scars"
I have no doubt that I will be well scarred, from the many errors and failed attempts to do my best and overcome weaknesses, by the time I die. Already, I have had many scars. But scars can heal and be removed through the love and atonement of the Savior. I have seen and have faith in that. I need to have greater faith in myself and my abilities to continually seek the power and influence of His atonement in my life.
The vision of a man trudging forward in faith and courage, very visibly beaten up and scarred, and yet brightened by hope and determination, is a powerful picture. It is one in which I want to see myself.
All those who follow this course will most certainly cause a better world - for themselves and for others.
"Bad breaks need not break a good man. They may, with God's help, even make him better." - Neal A. Maxwell
"Still strove with his last ounce of courage"
Down to the last ounce. To have the determination to continue to go forward, using my last ounce of courage, is also very powerful and challenging. Again, I think of that pioneer who continued pulling his handcart until he thought he could no longer, and then recieved heavenly help to go on.
I believe that if we continue to strive and push forward, even when we feel our courage is nearly gone, that we will gain new courage and strength, and be blessed for it. If we fear pushing forward because we think we may not have enough courage or strength to meet the test, and we then choose to stop trying, then perhaps that is when our courage is depleted. To gain greater strength in our physical muscles, we need to work out and exercise them. To gain greater spiritual courage and strength, the same is true.
"So long as man’s courage endures he will conquer; upon the courage in his heart all things depend." - H.G. Wells
I desire to have the determination to always strive to overcome my weaknesses and be a better person, a better husband, father, son, brother, friend and servant of the Lord - no matter what, no matter how much courage I have left. I can see and I can feel that by doing so, I will be able "to reach the unreachable star!"
This is my quest.
- Ken R. Young
P.S. - Here's another quote that makes a good cap to this dissertation:
"In the end the great truth will have been learned, that the quest is greater than what is sought, the effort finer than the prize, or rather that the effort is the prize, the victory cheap and hollow were it not for the rigor of the game." - Benjamin Cardozo
Also, see this nice version of the song: