What is Perfect

May 03, 2012 View Comments by

Short answer: in my opinion, nothing. Nothing of this earthly plane, or made by the hand of man, is perfect. By, or of, its nature, all things are flawed. Yet perfection is the utopian goal; whether a piece of art, or a work of prose, it must be perfect. Machines must work “perfectly,” yet none does. Electrical equipment fails, engines cease, airplanes crash, ships sink; cars and motorcycles don’t always start.

Michelangelo could probably point out flaws in the Sistine Chapel, or a place on the David where his file slipped; maybe Leonardo Da Vinci didn’t like the Mona Lisa’s smile. As an illustrator, I know myself that I am never satisfied with my work when it’s done. There’s always something I wish I had done differently. Amish craftsmen will purposely add a flaw to their woodwork; in their belief, “only God is perfect.”

Yet we are constantly judged against “perfect.” How unfair is that, being judged against something unattainable? Can we strive for perfection? Isn’t that like reaching for something well beyond your grasp, an exercise in futility? Or is the reaching the true goal? History is rife with perfectionists, and for the life of me I can’t name one who achieved their goal, but I can name a few who left this world a mess for trying.

So if we can’t meet perfection, then what should we do? Only one thing: The very best we can. If our best efforts are not enough, then the “flaw” is not with us, but with those we are trying to satisfy. The great author Robert Louis Stevenson may have said it best: “To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end in life.”

All I can add is: Ride on.

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About the author

A Wisconsin farm boy, I learned how to ride a cow, before a horse and way before a motorcycle. I first started riding on my 16th birthday and I took my first real ride at my party: I pulled a wheelie and dug a trench in the lawn, which sent the bike in one direction and me in another. I was irrevocably hooked!