Copyright 2013 Pacific Northwest Writers Association. All Rights Reserved
The Feeling of Perfection
The true perfection of man lies not in what man has, but in what man is.
~ Oscar Wilde
We often reassure each other that nothing’s perfect. There’s supposed to be some sort of comfort in that, a bit of release from the trap of striving for the unachievable or judging what we have as not good enough. It’s supposed to, I think, help us accept the “eh” aspect—the aspect of our experience that’s not quite what we want. Yet while we bemoan the grisliness of perfectionism and plot our escape, a desire for perfection often remains. It remains because the feeling of perfection is actually available to us regardless of how things may appear or how we may judge them.
In the television show Say Yes to the Dress, brides seek the perfect wedding dress in a posh New York bridal boutique. The show focuses on both the hunt and, of course, the juncture in which bride and gown find one another in rapturous recognition. So many brides, so many dresses, therefore so many “perfect” dresses. But what is perfect for one is often highly imperfect to another. So the definition of “perfect” is acknowledged as subject to the individual’s desires and particular perspective. When a bride finds her gown, it is a coming together—an experience of rightness, alignment with the way she wants to feel and its outward expression. Despite the show’s limitations as entertainment and its repetitive nature, it provides a good example of “perfect” not being about the achievement of a faultless thing but about the person’s moment of feeling perfection—meaning, feeling right within themselves.
There is no way to see anything or anyone as perfect, right, or beautiful as it is without feeling its perfection first. This is about being in an open state of appreciation, essentially a state of love. Usually we think things or people should inspire us to love (with their greatness) but, in truth, we are the ones inspiring ourselves to love or not. The perfection of a thing can always be accessed through feeling but can never be held still by the intellect. We don’t get to attain perfection—we get to feel it from the inside out.
In her memoir, Expecting Adam, writer Martha Beck walks us through her funny, touching breakdowns and breakthroughs as she lives an avalanche of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual trials and triumphs. Through an unplanned pregnancy (during the rigorous pursuit of her PhD at Harvard) resulting in a child with Down syndrome, Beck reveals, bit by bit, the exquisiteness of a life spinning out of control through fear into inspiration. As the “correct” outward form of her world falls apart, she is given a chance to start realizing the true perfection of her life and the beauty of life in general. In the end, Martha Beck enables her readers to not only feel and see her son’s perfection but also that of the messy, supposedly unwanted things that are a part of all of our lives.
Try seeing your world and yourself this way, eyes open to whatever is before you, mind free of dichotomies. Are you good or bad, fragile or tough, wise or foolish? Yes. And so am I.
~ Martha Beck
The allure of perfection is sometimes linked with a drive for more—more implying “better” in this context. And there’s an orientation many of us have that in order to be or have more we must first recognize how we are or have less. But focusing in this way diminishes our experience. With these diminishing thoughts we make scratches on what otherwise would be a perfectly clear lens—creating an uncomfortable way of seeing life. But as writers, like Martha Beck, we have the opportunity to create a lens through which our readers can feel and find the striking rightness of that which is often judged as wrong or imperfect.
Without purposefully opening up to the faultlessness of a thing, it is impossible to know it. When we shy from this state of appreciation, we feel lack—in ourselves, our lives, and in others. When we know the feeling of perfection, we are in a heightened state of appreciation. Though we often mistake perfection for a static quality of being, it is a reflection, not of a flawless thing, but of a flawless inner connection. The feeling of perfection is available to all of us; in every situation its unconditional status never falters. Whether we seek it through a dress, a child, or work, it eagerly awaits our rapturous moment of recognition.
Jennifer Paros is a writer, illustrator, and author of Violet Bing and the Grand House (Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle. Please visit her website at www.jenniferparos.com.