Marks and Remarks
Food for the Mind and Eye

No. 0148, December 1, 2017


  In Praise of Imperfection

     "Arrival of the Clowns"

Copyright 2017 by S.W. Paul Wyszkowski

     So here is the deal: the universe is fundamentally incomplete. It never was, is not, nor ever will or can be in any conceivable way complete. It is a work in constant progress that can never be finished because every action opens up new unprecedented possibilities that demand further action.

     Not only that, all records of past events and all predictions of future ones are also necessarily incomplete (and fuzzy besides and getting fuzzier with the distance from the present moment). In other words, this is an imperfect, only partially knowable, only imprecisely predictable universe. And it's not just because of our "defective" perception of it. This is its inherent nature and the condition on which its very existence depends (but that's another story).

     "So how does this help us be happy?" asks Prickles, our resident epicurean and a happy hedgehog. Easy. Understanding the incompleteness and fuzziness of the universe relieves us from the stress of trying to be perfect since that is in any case impossible. We still need to strive for accuracy but with the understanding that we can only be approximately right in our choices and actions and that success is always a matter of trial and unavoidable error. It's a matter of keeping on reducing that error until it becomes negligible. But the greatest benefit of being imperfect, incomplete and unpredictable is the potential this presents for a truly new adventure.

     Not everyone is cognizant of these facts of existence. Some are obsessed with creating predictable, unchanging worlds (read: prisons) totally under their control. They must fail in the long run but in the short run they can be existential threats to wellbeing of all within the reach of their power. On the other end of the spectrum there are those who are all too content with being imperfect, letting unavoidable approximation slide into mere carelessness and meaninglessness. Happiness, it turns out, is the consequence of keeping to the middle way that integrates past, present and the future into a meaningful arc of a joyful adventure, one that ultimately enriches rather than diminishes us.

     "Heaven preserve us from perfectionists and slobs," says Prickles, convinced. Amen.