I am not one, ordinarily, to fuck around with the idea of perfection. I have vehemently avoided it since my early teen years when my friend and I used the code name ‘Nobody’ for a crush and when anybody would say ‘well, nobody’s perfect’ we would titter amongst ourselves and agree. ‘Nobody’, of course, was far from perfect upon closer inspection, but I wouldn’t admit that for some time.
Since those days, I suppose I’ve viewed the word perfect as one tainted with delusion, unless dealing purely and explicitly with the intangible. I might not believe in it at all, but I certainly don’t seek it if I do – it is either inhuman, trite, or inherently fallacious.
That didn’t stop me, however, using it at a fairly critical juncture in a recent piece of writing that I sent to someone, in which the stakes didn’t exactly feel low. It’s probably, in retrospect, why I used it, because it felt like more of a statement to me given the fact it’s not usually in my repertoire. To be specific, I used the phrase subjectively perfect.
In what I have to assume is an entirely unrelated incident, the person I had sent this writing to made a public comment about perfection being overrated. I almost replied with ‘I feel personally attacked’, and I now wish I had, because it would have just sounded like I was calling myself perfect and I could have tittered privately at another secret perfection joke. But I’m always missing comic opportunities.
I’m still haunted by that time in college my friends and I were doing some kind of skit and there was something about a Vera Wang dress and I said ‘I do love my…dresses’, and someone else said ‘you should have said I do love my Wang’, and you know fucking what, I thought about that – I went back and forth about five times in my head as the words were coming out of my mouth, and I couldn’t commit, but I should have, you have confirmed it, and now I will live with that for the rest of my days.
So, having failed to actualise my own secret perfection joke, I instead just laughed at the Universe’s secret perfection joke. Because I loved this person’s comment; agreed with it entirely, yet still felt the urge to argue over semantics, to defend myself, to advocate for my particular use of the word perfect. The adventure of it kept me wakeful long past bed time, and I woke up, after four and a half hours sleep, alertly rankled by the incompletion. I knew I would not rest ’til I explored it to my satisfaction.
So here I am, musing upon the meaning of perfection, with the glaring caveat that I might just be convincing myself that my writing wasn’t a failure. Which, in reality, is not something I get to decide.
There is something about our human perspective that makes perfection tricky. If I meditate on the word flawless there is an exquisite silence and stillness to it, and I dare not move, but of course I move, so I can only ever get somewhat proximal, else it is completely disrupted. And there is beauty in that untouchable perfection.
But if we’re talking about something we can hold, physically or metaphorically – if we’re talking about something of this world – if it’s something we need or desire to interact with, perfection must take on a new meaning in order to persist. It must be something we can get up close to, otherwise the moment we touch it it vanishes.
Or maybe not. The other option, perhaps, is that the very idea of perfection is negated in this worldly context. That perfection in the material is merely unbroken, entirely smooth, as yet unweathered… And, in that eventuality, I chose my words very poorly. Because to describe something as perfect without the inclusion of some unreachable divinity is to call it boring; to call it lacking of all of the disruption that makes the human experience worth having. That was most certainly not my intent.
Now, I’m not saying that worldly objects don’t possess some unreachable divinity – I believe that they very much do. I think what I am trying to say is that there is a version of perfection that is a kind of human perfection, or perhaps more accurately a mortal perfection – whereby the form of an object continually leads your experience of it toward its inherent divinity. A kind of perfection that accounts for time and space, or whatever underlies them, and for all the limitations of our living. Where the interplay of an earthly form and our own perception of it reliably interact to approach the unreachable.
In the vast majority of instances, there comes a moment where your experience of an object diverges from the divine ideal that it may or may not possess (and yes, I’m sorry, I’m including people in my definition of object here).
So, if I’m defending perfection, I think I’m positing that it’s possible for an object to keep leading you, across indefinite interactions with it, toward its inherent beauty, and that is what I want to call perfection in a worldly context. Something that remains interesting, compelling, beautiful across time. Which can only occur by virtue of objective material flaws or, through another lens, complexity.
I think flaws only look like flaws because we lack the ability to see them fully; that if there is some God, they look upon each flaw as the exquisite perfection it is, within the context of whatever exactly it is contributing to; that sometimes a particular collection of flaws might spoon-feed our puny processor with just the inputs it needs to glimpse said exquisite perfection.
And because we’re all uniquely hammered into shape by forces beyond our control and understanding, what we need in order to experience an enduring revelation is idiosyncratic and mysterious. My perfection cannot be yours, at least not all the way, and neither can it be entirely known beyond that which I’ve already experienced.
I will concede it is a bold claim, therefore, to declare anything of this world perfect without the benefit of hindsight. Perhaps too bold. But I don’t know. Maybe I’m rationalising my writing, maybe I’m rationalising my romanticism – maybe I’m talking out my arse – but I think you know when you’ve been captured. I think I know I’ve been captured. And the fact that knowing could be illusory just makes it all the more exciting.
So that’s that. I stand by what I said. Subjective perfection. Call me a fool if you will.
Or, better yet, prove me wrong.