. . . perfection is slow of attainment, and we must have time to accomplish it in--that's what we think at the start of the game. And then by half-time, it turns out that the one art we have any shot at perfecting is the grace of knowing that we never will.
the italized was written by William Hazlitt. I haven't read him but I think he's now on the list ...
Yeah, perfection, maybe even acceptable ability or passable accomplishment, is slow of attainment. And the grace of knowing ... and accepting that we won't be perfect.
Well, I wasn't so focussed on perfection, at least, not consciously, and now I see I am thinking about it after just having posted Ron Padgett's long poem, How to Be Perfect, as Poem of the Week.272. Must be touching something inside.
I have felt frustrated or sheepish or ashamed that I don't much strive for perfection; is that because I think it is unattainable? Unreasonable? Too much effort? Or even that the state of perfection is not static?
The next morning.
Yeah, up and getting ready for another one. It was stormy all night and I slept fitfully. Maybe it was eating too much too late. Anyone out there ever done that? And then you spend a good amount of time in the self-loathing dance.
But today is sunnier, although the swaying tree outside the front window indicates that it is still blowing. So, this weekend I will try to slow down and stay a bit more aware of where I am.
And there is the element of grace mentioned in Jeff's note. One friend frequently remarks that mercy is unearned grace. I am not sure I understand either.
Should any itinerant blog walkers come upon this post by chance, here's the Ron Padgett poem again.
Damn, How To Be Perfect, is a good book of poetry. Here’s the title poem. A long one, but I just love it. Copied and emailed with no permission but by your leave.
Ron Padgett, How to Be Perfect (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2007)
HOW TO BE PERFECT
Everything is perfect, dear friend.
Get some sleep.
Don’t give advice.
Take care of your teeth and gums.
Don’t be afraid of anything beyond your control. Don’t be
afraid, for instance, that the building will collapse as you sleep,
or that somebody you love will suddenly drop dead.
Eat an orange every morning.
Be friendly. It will help make you happy.
Raise your pulse rate to 120 beats per minute for 20 straight
minutes four or five times a week doing anything you enjoy.
Hope for everything. Expect nothing.
Take care of things close to home first. Straighten up your room
before you save the world. Then save the world.
Know that the desire to be perfect is probably the veiled
expression of another desire—to be loved, perhaps, or not to die.
Make eye contact with a tree.
Be skeptical about all opinions, but try to see some value in each
Dress in a way that pleases both you and those around you.
Do not speak quickly.
Learn something every day. (Dzien dobre!)
Be nice to people before they have a chance to behave badly.
Don’t stay angry about anything for more than a week, but don’t
forget what made you angry. Hold your anger out at arm’s length
and look at it, as if it were a glass ball. Then add it to your glass
Wear comfortable shoes.
Design your activities so that they show a pleasing balance
Be kind to old people, even when they are obnoxious. When you
become old, be kind to young people. Do not throw your cane at
them when they call you grandpa. They are your grandchildren!
Live with an animal.
Do not spend too much time with large groups of people.
If you need help, ask for it.
Cultivate good posture until it becomes natural.
If someone murders your child, get a shotgun and blow his
Plan your day so you never have to rush.
Show your appreciation to people who do things for you, even if
you have paid them, even if they do favors you don’t want.
Do not waste money you could be giving to those who need it.
Expect society to be defective. Then weep when you find that it
is far more defective than you imagined.
When you borrow something, return it in an even better
As much as possible, use wooden objects instead of plastic or
Look at that bird over there.
After dinner, wash the dishes.
Visit foreign countries, except those whose inhabitants have
expressed a desire to kill you.
Don’t expect your children to love you, so they can, if they want
Meditate on the spiritual. Then go a little further, if you feel like
it. What is out (in) there?
Sing, every once in a while.
Be on time, but if you are late do not give a detailed and
Don’t be too self-critical or too self-congratulatory.
Don’t think that progress exists. It doesn’t.
Do not practice cannibalism.
Imagine what you would like to see happen, and then don’t do
anything to make it impossible.
Take your phone off the hook at least twice a week.
Keep your windows clean.
Extirpate all traces of personal ambitiousness.
Don’t use the word extirpate too often.
Forgive your country every once in a while. If that is not
possible, go to another one.
If you feel tired, rest.
Do not wander through train stations muttering, “We’re all
going to die!”
Count among your true friends people of various stations of life.
Appreciate simple pleasures, such as the pleasure of chewing, the
pleasure of warm water running down your back, the pleasure of
a cool breeze, the pleasure of falling asleep.
Do not exclaim, “Isn’t technology wonderful!”
Learn how to stretch your muscles. Stretch them every day.
Don’t be depressed about growing older. It will make you feel
even older. Which is depressing.
Do one thing at a time.
If you burn your finger, put ice on it immediately. If you bang
your finger with a hammer, hold your hand in the air for twenty
minutes. You will be surprised by the curative powers of ice and
Learn how to whistle at ear-splitting volume.
Be calm in a crisis. The more critical the situation, the calmer
you should be.
Enjoy sex, but don’t become obsessed with it. Except for brief
periods in your adolescence, youth, middle age, and old age.
Contemplate everything’s opposite.
If you’re stuck with the fear that you’ve swum out too far in the
ocean, turn around and go back to the lifeboat.
Keep your childish self alive.
Answer letters promptly. Use attractive stamps, like the one with
a tornado on it.
Cry every once in a while, but only when alone. Then
appreciate how much better you feel. Don’t be embarrassed
about feeling better.
Do not inhale smoke.
Take a deep breath.
Do not smart off to a policeman.
Do not step off a curb until you can walk all the way across
the street. From the curb you can study the pedestrians who are
trapped in the middle of the crazed and roaring traffic.
Walk down different streets.
Remember beauty, which exists, and truth, which does not. Notice
that the idea of truth is just as powerful as the idea of beauty.
Stay out of jail.
In later life, become a mystic.
Use Colgate toothpaste in the new Tartar Control formula.
Visit friends and acquaintances in the hospital. When you feel it
is time to leave, do so.
Be honest with yourself, diplomatic with others.
Do not go crazy a lot. It’s a waste of time.
Read and reread great books.
Dig a hole with a shovel.
In the winter, before you go to bed, humidify your bedroom.
Know that the only perfect things are a 300 game in bowling and
a 27-batter, 27-out game in baseball.
Drink plenty of water. When asked what you would like to
drink, say, “Water, please.”
Ask “Where is the loo?” but not “Where can I urinate?”
Be kind to physical objects.
Beginning at age forty, get a complete “physical” every few
years from a doctor you trust and feel comfortable with.
Don’t read the newspaper more than once a year.
Learn how to say “hello,” “thank you,” and “chopsticks”
Belch and fart, but quietly.
Be especially cordial to foreigners.
See shadow puppet plays and imagine that you are one of the
characters. Or all of them.
Take out the trash.
Use exact change.
When there’s shooting in the street, don’t go near the window.