Thursday, April 21, 2011


I have been ruminating on the idea of perfection for the last couple of days.  Probably as a result of spending so much time studying Catalan and painting - when not completing nursing duties.  Lord I am bad at that.  The man continues to be ill, but I can actually have a conversation with him for more than five minutes before he runs out of breath or falls asleep.

Seems he has some fluid in one of his lungs.  Considering he's done marathons not too long ago and can do a 10k run like I walk to the corner for some chocolate, the fact that he was seriously winded at the top of a flight of stairs was somewhat worrying.

He seems to be s.l.o.w.l.y. on the mend.  We think it is whatever I had last week, (see the running note that I have no lungs) but worse.


I have been contemplating perfection.  A nice idea that I think does quite a lot of harm.  I have had many adult students who beat themselves up quite horrendously because they aren't doing something perfectly.  I always say to them that perfection is an ideal towards which we strive, but realistically are aware that we will never acheive (and don't really want to, were we to think about it for any length of time).

I mean, really, if we pulled it off, what would be the point of going on?  That sounds trite, but I do mean it.  If you create a 'perfect' novel, or a 'perfect' presentation what do you do next?  No one speaks a language perfectly, not even the most highly educated native speaker, we all make mistakes from time to time, and that is soooo OK.

So WHY do we get our shirts in a knot about it.

I rumble this around in my head while I paint.  You see work in museums and galleries and it looks so....slick.  So polished, so finished.  Then you look at a video of someone doing art restorations and you realise that Matisse painted in the eyes of a portrait three times!  And the first time they were in a truly disasterously unanatomical out of place.

Goodness, but if they all mess it up, and simply cover it with another layer of paint, can't the rest of us?  Except watercolourists. They simply have to burn the evidence.  No going back with that medium at all. But really, if  multi-million dollar funded software programs that have hundreds of professionals working on them come out 'buggy', or like Vista, hopelessly flawed?

So why should the rest of us believe that we have to work to this standard?  I think it's OK if I sometimes modify a painting cause I smudged the d*mn thing..OK, so his mouth is going to be a little wider than I first thought that all that bad?  I messed up my freaking pronoms febles, which are BRUTAL in Catalan, all of you English speakers....kiss the word 'it' next time you see it.  (Go's just a computer screen, it can handle a quick smooch). You have NO idea the problems 'it' avoids.  None.

Does that mean that I don't want my painting to improve?  Does it mean that I don't want my accent to improve, my grammar and vocabulary?  Of course not, of course I want to be better at all of these things, of course I put a lot of grinding time and effort into it, some of which is even fun.  But perfect?  SHUT UP!

Then there are those lovely rewarding moments when understanding just sort of 'clicks' into place and it is like magic.

Honestly, there is nothing, not one single thing (note, my family, I am saying thing here) that is better than that feeling and that moment.



kate said...

First of all, fluid in the lung? I do hope he is getting proper medical care (and lots of rest!) and feels better soon!

And yes, I agree re: perfection. Not too long ago I posted as my fb status (which I only change occasionally) "The perfect is the enemy of the good"-- so I have been thinking about similar issues. Especially now that I am working on stuff that needs to both a) be good and b) get done, so there comes a point when you just have to go on even when it's not there. In art, I suppose, you have more leeway, but of course as you point out, multiple attempts are perfectly valid, and I think you still get to a poiint where you have to let go and move on. (Who was that artist who allegedly repossessed a gifted painting hanging on a friend's wall and took it back to keep working on it?)

Jan said...

The one time that I've had that feeling of everything clicking into place perfectly just over 40 years ago when I was at secretarial college. We were learning Pitman shorthand of course, and were all despairing of ever, ever getting it! And then I did!

oreneta said...

Kate...yeah, I was kind of taken aback too, though he is getting better....there is something about a pile of deadlines that makes you draw the line somewhere on the more reasonable side of's either that or madness. Glad your hanging in ...I can imagine Picasso, well, I can imagine a bunch of painters reclaiming work to modify it again, and I can get the sentiment too....

Jan, that click moment is such a good one, no? Remember it 40 years later!

Anonymous said...

Just read the post. Hope the man is better!
And re: perfection, I feel it's something one should strive for, knowing it's unattainable, some kind of motivation to constantly improve.

oreneta said...

He is, and that pretty much nails it with perfection.