Perfection is a nice sentiment.
To the sentimental then, perfectionism is not so much a dreaded taskmaster as it is a demanding friend. Artist and friend together, they embody a primal wish—a singular will to transcend.
Perfection is a fleeting vision, a glimpse into what could be. Purpose fuels the effort, and perfection is when that purpose is fulfilled elegantly. The desires and expectations are condensed into an alternate reality.
Perfectionism, on the other hand, is a neurosis. To disregard the reality of infinitesimal probabilities must mean something is amiss. But what joy I ask you, is there in mediocrity—the possibility of having nothing of value to reminisce?
In that sense, perfectionism is about distilling human expression.
When our only calling is to impress—to invoke collective frisson—our work becomes an art form, the same way a Japanese tea ceremony is a performance.
What causes the greatest anguish is that perfection is not a checklist of prerequisites and conditions; it’s too fuzzy. Perhaps that fuzziness is part freeing, part uneasy. But to realize even our greatest work will remain but a prototype, that is a particularly unbearable agony.
Personally, I search for a salve to ease the pain. See, the notion of perfection is addictive; it’s impossible to abstain. Maybe if achieving it wasn’t so open-ended, I could be challenged, unrewarded and still stay sane.
While the purist might argue that perfectionism should trickle into everything we do, that’s unrealistic. Besides, there’s almost always a source from which reverence originally grew. Denial would simply be untrue.
But what if that’s the problem with perfectionism?
Why must we fixate on a singular ideal vision? Aren’t we closing ourselves off to equivalent (or superior) forms of expression? There are as many paths as there are arts to achieve perfection.
An answer is what I desperately seek. To a sentimentalist, only a complementary sentiment would be received as elegant and cozy, and so, I set off searching the deep self for a primordial story.
I ponder composing and writing, martial arts and dancing, or any other skill we hold in highest esteem; a fall from whose peak would be damning. The mythical summit rarely glimpsed, but too often veiled behind clouds of doubt – more’s the pity!
Every student begins his worship with tedium and repetition. Not unlike learning a language—a new alphabet letter by letter—until it leaves a deep impression, until it becomes a second nature of instinct and hunch.
To the warrior, training would be an alphabet of muscle memory and reflexes. Each motion a word, a kind of complex moving of hieroglyphs. It follows then, that that every duel is, in fact, poetry in motion—an interpretive dance of rage and risk.
After all, any barbarian can throw a punch, but it takes a master to wax lyrical in the language of violence—to debate with parry and lunge. Or even to say a marksman plays with the echoes of drawn bows wouldn’t be too much.
So it is with music too, from reading notation to composing. A language of edible colors and flavors, what else but the art of cooking? The primal expression of body language with evocative dancing.
Every skill becomes a language, and just as the loftiest display of linguistic virtuosity is poetry, perfection, too,an aspire to a form so refined.
Finally, the clouds obscuring the pinnacles of achievement can be dispersed and dispelled. The artist is tormented no longer, for his frustration, a death knell. Three torches are afforded the pilgrim on the path; three realizations with which darkness and doubt are rightly quelled.
Perfection doesn’t exist independent of the artist.
That the highest expression of any art is the poetry of its own language and, that perfectionism shouldn’t obsess over a singularity, but instead, harvest every poetic permutation of stardust. These will take the artist the farthest.
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Asst. Ed. Jane Henderling/ Ed. Bryonie Wise