Tag Archives: imperfection

Hold That Ideal Loosely

“All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste.”
– Ira Glass

What makes it so difficult to know what we’ve said is knowing so well what we meant to say.

Missing the mark. It’s a definition of sin.

There’s a lot of talk these days about the “gifts of imperfection” and embracing failure. Is this what’s meant, or do we need to understand something better here?

I thought I’d get the new chandelier hung and wired so easily this weekend. It wouldn’t be that challenging to switch out the old light fixture for the new. Or so I thought.

It turns out there’s a difference between the plastic coating on positive and negative electrical wires. We never know what we don’t know, but it can cause problems, and an extra trip to the hardware store for a new wall switch.

Missing the mark can be intentional, but more often it’s simply unrecognized. Most of us know well what perfection would look like, but few of us, if any, are able to manage it.

This can cause all sorts of internal challenges and blown fuses.

Ira Glass said our difficulty as writers comes from having great taste and not being able to achieve that special quality we want our work to have. We know it’s missing something, but we don’t know yet what it is. When I turned the power back on, there must have been a pop at the wall because when I came back, there was no light.

How do we get clear on what we’re missing unless we let go of what we hoped for to recognize something is missing?

Is this a gift of imperfection, this awareness of what we lack?

With a new wall switch installed and the wires reversed, the new chandelier worked and I’d learned more about wiring than I had before. But it took far longer, a couple Youtube videos on using a voltage meter, and Sheri reading the instructions to me aloud to determine what had gone wrong. And in the end, even my inability to read carefully was a humorous gift.

Isn’t this why we say writing is a process? We have to learn to enjoy the learning and forget the product. Perfection is a fine goal, but the gifts of missing the mark that teach us so well what we truly need from the work.

If we’ll slow down, let another see our failure, and take the time to see what it means we must do, we can grow and acquire the hidden gifts God placed in the process for us to discover.

If only we can learn to hold more loosely that simple, perfect ideal.

Hold that ideal loosely. And press on today.

For the higher purpose,

Mick

John Ruskin’s Philosophy on Art

With all the talk these days about the “gift of imperfection,” it could be easy to take the idea for granted.

But everyone pursuing art, or even just a satisfying life, must embrace the huge importance of accepting imperfection:

“No good work whatever can be perfect, and the demand for perfection is always a sign of a misunderstanding of the ends of art.” – J. Ruskin

John Ruskin was the top art critic of his time. This guy knew his stuff. In Victorian Era England, he commanded respect as a prominent thinker and defender of the pre-Raphaelite artists. He was no slouch. He wasn’t arguing for laziness or accepting low-quality work or a “good enough” life. He simply understood and believed in the essential beauty of imperfection:

“Imperfection is in some sort essential to all that we know of life. It is the sign of life… Nothing that lives is, or can be, rigidly perfect…there are certain irregularities and deficiencies which are not only signs of life, but sources of beauty. No human face is exactly the same in its lines on each side, no leaf perfect in its lobes, no branch in its symmetry… To banish imperfection is to destroy expression…to paralyze vitality.”

Ruskin’s beliefs about art bled into some of the clearest statements ever made on the nature of human ambition and all our worldly pursuits. He saw behind the veil, so to speak, to the very fiber of what draws us to beauty in the first place:

“All things are literally better, lovelier, and more beloved for the imperfections which have been divinely appointed, that the law of human life may be Effort, and the law of human judgment, Mercy.” 

Ponder that. I’m not going to try to guide your attention or understanding of it right now. But as this acceptance of divinely-appointed imperfections relates to the idea I shared last week on accepting help (link here), I pray you’ll pursue your art this week as a chance to embrace your inadequacies, as John recommends.

This is an essential need, i.e. humility. So see it as the gift it is to help guide your attention as you go.

And may the grace it promotes direct you along your way.

For the higher purpose,

Mick