The Imperfect Good

“Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest”.                                                ~ Ecclesiastes ~

Most commentaries on the above verse talk a lot about the importance of taking risks. If a farmer wastes too much time worrying about whether the wind might blow his seeds away, he’ll never plant or harvest a thing. But I read it a little differently. To me, one word stands out among the rest: Perfect. 
Have you ever noticed how flippantly we use that word? I often use one of its variants to describe a cup of coffee when I manage to tweak it just so. “Ahhh, perfecto!” I’ll say as I take my first sip. 

I often hear the word blurted into the air like pollution from the mouth of brutes, as they ogle the parts of a passing female. (As in, “Would you look at the perfect set of – – on her!”) Sadly, the same objectified girl may torture herself before the mirror over her body’s myriad of imperfections.  

Each day, we witness two philosophies battling over the idea of perfection. Neither side denies its existence; rather, they disagree on the when of perfection. One group believes perfection is indeed attainable, but only by abandoning the past and pushing forward into greater enlightenment. The other group believes perfection already existed once – a perfect world with perfect people – and this perfection can and will be returned to, likely via supernatural intervention. (Or failing such intervention, by getting back to the good old days.)

Of the two camps, I spent the majority of my life in the latter. At least, I thought I did. Looking back, I think I always knew I was wrong about this whole perfection thing. In their secret hearts, I believe many people know the same. 

I now find myself in a small but growing third group. In this group, we believe three things about perfection:

A) A perfect world never existed.

B) A perfect world never will exist.

C) The letting go of perfection enables one to embrace the good.

I try to avoid over analyzing the nuances of every biblical phrase, but I love the words used repeatedly by God in the Genesis poem. As he surveys Creation, he says, “It’s good. It’s very good.” Is the writer being strategic with those words? Is he purposely avoiding the word perfect? I like to think so. 

I want to talk a moment about work. (I’ll make the connection soon, trust me.)  
 This clever graffito is scribed upon an old retired railway bridge I like to walk across sometimes. The graffito has been there a long time, and I tend to have mental conversations with its unknown creator whenever I see it. I’ve often pretended to say something like, “Bravo, bro. Bravo and amen.” Recently, I’ve come to say something different to the unknown artist. “You’ve got it all wrong, buddy. Work is good, and I think you know this. If you didn’t know, you would not have made this art. Praise the jerk who invented work.”    

My feelings on work have shifted dramatically of late. I’ve come to redefine what work means to me, even as I’ve changed my approach to work. 

New definition: My work is not my job. If you ask me about my job, I’ll tell you I’m in sales, but the duties of that job only sometimes entail my true work. Ask me about my work, though, and I will tell you I am a writer, or a storyteller, or maybe even a teacher. These things are my work, my role in the world. When I engage in these things, I make the world a little better. When you engage in your work, you make the world a little better.

New approach: I show up. I do it. I don’t wait for perfect weather, or perfect mood, or perfect inspiration. I do the work, and sometimes it sucks really bad. Sometimes, however, I connect with something beyond myself and beyond the world – something that might actually be perfect – and this perfection rubs off on me just enough to make my work good. Sometimes very good.

If each of us grasped this idea of doing our own work, if we forsook the myth of past or future perfection and endeavored for the good, everything would change. Every one of us would change. Illicit drugs would become irrelevant, for we’d no longer need them to dull the pain of avoided work. Thousands of psychologists and therapists would have to look for new careers, due to an absence of anxiety and depression. Obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease would be practically eradicated, along with migraines and chronic halitosis.    

Perhaps you’re one who’s been waiting for perfect weather to plant your seeds. Do us all a favor, and plant that seed. Do your work. Yes, the weather could be shitty and make a mess of things, but invariably some of the seed will land in a good place, and you will have done good work. A thousand years from now, we may only be a fraction closer to that illusive perfection, but your work will still be around – a foundation for the good work of those yet to come.

11 replies »

  1. I am very glad you do not wait for perfect weather to do your work. I have enjoyed you blog posts. Keep planting those seeds. Thank you.

  2. Excellent! Great food for thought, my friend! To me the pursuit of “perfect” has represented our age old propensity to be our own saviors–if that makes sense. Keep writing! Keep inspiring. Keep pushing against lazy thought!

  3. Awesome post Sir!
    It was almost ‘Perfect’. 😉

    Actually, I have a similar experience to share. Once I was thinking what goes on inside the head of a Formula 1 driver, who has a race next morning? Is he thinking that he didn’t get enough sleep for the last couple of days so he’s not physically 100% for the race, or he’s thinking the weather is no good either, so I don’t have a chance?
    He will never feel himself, physically, or mentally ‘Perfect’ for the race.

    That means any day is a good day to begin.. with whatever you have.

    Really enjoyed reading your post. Please do keep writing more awesome posts.


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