So I was recently quite chuffed to be accused by a comparative stranger of being perfectionist. Mrs Kent found this hilarious. Apparently, I am at best a sixtyfivepercentist.
But that sent me thinking, and now I’m convinced that “perfectionism” is a misnomer … because it just cannot be. Clearly, some things HAVE to be flawless; ask any mathematician or hairdresser. But exactly how mad will we become if we insist on a ubiquitous perfection, and how good is well enough in general?
This is very interesting indeed. I listen to the BBC a lot (podcasts), and I’ve noticed recently that almost every interviewee begins his response with “So…”. Either this is a quite new phenomenon, or something that I’ve only just begun noticing. It used to be a sort of verbal tick that people used to cover embarrassment or an attempt to revivify a flagging conversation, for example at a blind date, where one party would say something like this in an attempt to break the ice: “So, where do you stand on the Easter controversy?”, but now people use it all the time. Sorry that this response has bugger all to do with your post, but I’m not a perfectionist.
There isn’t really much to resolve if “perfectionism” is viewed as a striving towards the ideal or best possible situation or outcome, on the understanding that “ideal or best possible” is a largely subjective appraisal. This is not to say that there are some standards that most people, if not all, would agree set the correct bar for what is “perfect” in any given context. Nor does it mean that such standards are static or absolute in the sense of not changing with new knowledge or experience.
In fact, the question raised is no less tractable than the ever-present “What is art/beauty?” There are as many answers to it as there are (thoughtful) people contemplating it.
I think “perfection” is not so much a state as a journey, and “perfectionism” an attribute of those who watch their step on the way as the terrain changes.
My niece’s 10 yr old son says if nothing is perfect why does the word exist? Astute little litey! The only “things” IMO that are perfect (i.e. cannot be improved upon)are clouds (all shapes and sizes) and the sea. ;D