Be Careful What You Wish For —

Perfection, Perfection

(“I will walk the way of perfection.” Psalm 101:2)

I have had it with perfection.
I have packed my bags,
I am out of here.

As certain as rain
will make you wet,
perfection will do you

It droppeth not as dew
upon the summer grass
to give liberty and green

Perfection straineth out
the quality of mercy,
withers rapture at its

Before the battle is half begun,
cold probity thinks
it can’t be won, concedes the

I’ve handed in my notice,
given back my keys,
signed my severance check, I

Hints I could have taken:

Even the perfect chiseled form of
Michelangelo’s radiant David

the Venus de Milo
has no arms,
the Liberty Bell is

—— Kilian McDonnell, from Swift, Lord, You Are Not. © Saint John’s University Press, 2003.

As we saw, part of the perfect beauty of the Venus de Milo is not in spite of, but because of, her missing arms. And Michelangelo’s David — well, he doesn’t squint, not really. But he is frowning, at the magnitude of his task, maybe, at the sheer size of the opponent facing him. But his beauty is not marred by the frown; it’s enhanced, perhaps, by his humanness.

So why — WHY? — are we forever chasing after the will-o-the-wisp of Perfection? As if it were attainable, as if it would be desirable if we ever DID attain it?

There’s a lot more to say on this subject, and over the next days, maybe weeks, I’ll be saying some of it — You are invited to chime in at any time, maybe right now?

This entry was posted in Etcetera, Poetry, Quotes, Wisdom, Wonderings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Be Careful What You Wish For —

  1. Pauline says:

    Well, if you ascribe to the maxim that despite all its imperfections, life is perfect…


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Oh, LIFE may or may not be (remember, Alexander Pope was sure it was: “whatever is, is right”) — but is perfection in OUR grasp? Some people I know are even crippled by it in its “ism” form, perfectionism — and the good always goes glimmering for them because they insist on their vision of the best.


  2. rebekah says:

    «As certain as rain
    will make you wet,
    perfection will do you
    in.» …
    nothing could be more true.
    It’s very difficult to let go of. When I realize I cannot be perfect in whatever I do, I tend to give up.


  3. Pauline says:

    Then it would depend on your definition of perfect… and the WHY of your pursuit. We often spend too much time trying for perfection and too little trying to figure out where our perception of it it will bring us.


    • Touch2Touch says:

      You could say that —
      Oh, you did!
      My perception is perfect this morning :-0

      I suspect that some of us NEVER bother to think about your point, where our perception of perfection will bring us. Our culture always used to — maybe not anymore?— stress this to us, good is not good enough, only BEST is good enough. No one ever said a word about why. (But I only realize this because of your comment. Thanks, as always!)


    • Mercy says:

      Pauline’s message sunk in only long after I’d read it…
      It’s like you can design and fashion an absolutely perfect symmetrical stick figure, but it’ll only be a stick figure, without depth…
      or you can fashion an absolutely perfect 3D figure, but it’ll only be an inanimate lifeless thing
      or you can fashion a fully living thing, but it might turn out to be frankenstein…
      so you may seek and you may find perfection on one scale, only to look at it in a different way and find you’ve been way off the mark! (like beauty which lies in the eye of the beholder?)


  4. mercy says:

    “On earth the broken arc, in heaven the perfect round” to quote Browning – which is why apparently Chinese potters spend hours shaping perfect-ly shaped pickling jars and vases and the like and then deliberately leave a chip on them in acknowledgement of the fact that perfection is not achievable by mere humans…
    The trick is to pursue perfection in just one or two facets of one’s life while letting go of the rest! It makes for the perfect sense of wellbeing – the striving towards the good and the true, the perfect, be it via a perfect sentence, or a blog, a piece of music or the law even while being slummy with a sink full of dirty dishes.


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Well, that’s telling it straight out, Mercy! You know, it’s said that the rug weavers of Arabia do the same, they deliberately leave the final knot untied because perfection belongs only to God.
      I love the image of striving for the perfect blog post while the sink cheerily overflows with dirty dishes! (And we’re okay with that —) Beautiful!


  5. Stef says:

    My pursuit of perfection almost killed me (literally); I’m slowly (yet persistently) learning to let it go, and enjoy the messy reality of now…


    • Touch2Touch says:

      I take this comment literally, Stef — and assume you really did some number on yourself in search of an elusive goal (which, Pauline suggests, might not really have even been analyzed or thought through). It sounds like — praise be— you really learned, and are learning as you say to let it go —
      My friend Therese, who shows up on Facebook more than she does here, always maintained that real relationships, real love, real anything connected, is MESSY. I resisted this idea for a long time, but I guess you’re both right.


      • Stef says:

        Yes, the comment was/is literal – and one of the more ‘interesting’ things (probably not the right word, but the best one I can surmise right now) is that I pursued the elusive goal of perfection somewhat unconsciously (i.e., I never really paused to reflect on the genuine impossibility of the task), and somewhat consciously (i.e., I kind of knew what I was doing at the time…). As a black-and-white, all-or-nothing kind of thinker, I have had to re-train my brain to see (and then become more comfortable with really *accepting*) the ambiguity, the fuzziness, the gray, the “messy” in life. Which makes things more fun, but less clear – but often times more enjoyable, in addition to more ‘difficult’. 🙂


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