Perfect is Nowhere and Everywhere

by Tom Swift

“We should remember that even Nature’s inadvertence has its own charm, its own attractiveness. The way loaves of bread split open on top in the oven; the ridges are just by-products of the baking, and yet pleasing, somehow: they rouse our appetite without our knowing why. Or how ripe figs begin to burst. And olives on the point of falling: the shadow of decay gives them a peculiar beauty. Stalks of wheat bending under their own weight. The furrowed brow of the lion. Flecks of foam on the boar’s mouth. And other things. If you look at them in isolation there’s nothing beautiful about them, and yet by supplementing nature they enrich it and draw us in. And anyone with a feeling for nature — a deeper sensitivity — will find it all gives pleasure. Even what seems inadvertent. He’ll find the jaws of live animals as beautiful as painted ones or sculptures. He’ll look calmly at the distinct beauty of old age in men, women, and at the loveliness of children. And other things like that will call out to him constantly — things unnoticed by others. Things seen only by those at home with Nature and its works.” -Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 3.2

The irony of seeking perfection is that you don’t want it even when you find it.

There is something sterile about perfection.

Otherworldly.

Unapproachable.

This time of year you encounter light displays large and small, from those of humble homeowners to those of large corporations trying to entice you to view their wares. Consider the perfectly shaped tree with perfectly spaced, bright white bulbs … the sense that comes forth, no matter the actual makeup of the tree, is that of the unnatural.

Which is maybe the most memorable Christmas tree in contemporary art? Charlie Brown’s.

People who have undergone cosmetic surgery to correct so-called flaws … they come off — your first impression of them is that they are in some way removed from you and the world you inhabit. The correction makes them less attractive.

Some dents aren’t supposed to be buffed out.

This is not mere acceptance: not the “nothing is perfect” mantra. Some things and some people do at least give the impression of having reached a flawless state. But you are not drawn to them and, in fact, are often repelled by them.

So why would you ever seek to find perfect — convey perfect — in yourself and in your work?