How do you define perfect?
Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines perfection in the following way:
“The quality of state or of being finished: COMPLETION, WHOLENESS. The condition of having reached full development: MATURITY, RIPENESS… an unsurpassable degree of accuracy or excellence.”
Full development? Maturity? Oh, dear. Ripeness has been tossed my way a few times in my life. But rarely, if ever, the previous two; they remain safely in the “goal” column.
In his excellent 1990 book on baseball, Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball, author George Will focused on the individual disciplines of hitting, pitching, fielding and managing. He chose as his subjects Tony Gwynn (hitting), Orel Hershiser (pitching), Cal Ripken (fielding), and Tony LaRussa (managing). In an interview for the book at the time, I remember Will singling out Ripken and Gwynn in particular as examples of perfection. The comment struck me as both enlightened and audacious. How can one really identify it?
Perfection is subjective.
I know I recall seeing it in a Greg Louganis dive, or more recently in a Simone Biles floor exercise. And indeed I also recall moments when both Ripken and Gwynn — two absolute gentlemen of sport — thrilling me with their brilliance on the diamond. They weren’t always flawless, but they sure they came close to it more often than not.
Of course, I also recall the time when Louganis hit his head on diving board at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. I gasped along with everyone else watching. That wasn’t perfection at all, was it? Yet, he went on to ultimately win the gold medal in that competition, bringing him back to perfection once again. Full circle.
If getting an A on an exam is considered by some to be perfect, so should that act of winning a gold medal.
Hell, we’ve recently learned that even a phone conversation can be called perfect. Talk about grade inflation! But I’m going to give that man a slight break here. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder. One doesn’t really need the weathercaster to tell us it’s a perfect day; we can check on that all by our lonesome.
Narcissism aside, I don’t feel we need to be world-class athletes to get a glimmer of perfection now and then. A good friend of ours recently sent us some chocolate which she bought on a European trip (thanks, T!). Talk about about a perfect gift. I snapped it up and immediately claimed it as mine. Selfish and perfect.
We certainly shouldn’t look to our elected officials for perfection. In the last several months I’ve been closely scrutinizing each of the Democrat candidates running for president. I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s not a perfect choice amongst them. With each one I’m having to swallow a policy position not in line with my own views. I had dreams a year ago that any candidate would be a veritable Michael Jordan, a perfect savior for our democracy. Instead I’m seeing they’re all rather like me: imperfect and frustratingly inconsistent. Just hopefully not as selfish.
Gorgeous and I often have contrary views on what is perfect. For instance, I love a good road trip. I enjoy the scenery: laughing at the billboards, reading the names on signposts of unfamiliar roads and towns. I love the stops for gas: they’re filled with opportunities to buy lottery tickets sold by smiling cashiers, each one always inspiring me to think that this time I’m finally going to win. I love the taste of that Dunkin’ Donut I’ll buy because I rarely ever do so in my regular routines while at home. These are perfect moments to me, with the freedom of the open road and a figurative opportunity to spread wings.
For Gorgeous, however, road trips are endless hours of tedium and gastrointestinal challenges. She likes the destination but can’t stand the journey. Perfection for her is being at home under a blanket with a cup of tea and a good magazine. Especially the magazine. I’ve never seen anyone love magazines as much as this person. Visits to the grocery store are always delayed because they’ll invariably include a long stop at the main magazine aisle. And she wonders why I’m constantly pulling out my phone!
But I digress. It was that love for magazines that got me thinking prior to a recent road trip that we took. What if… we loaded her up with magazines prior to the trip?
The result was a smashing success. She was engrossed in all of her just-purchased reading material, and I never heard a peep of complaint on either leg of the trip. Perfection along with a lesson learned for future excursions.
I’m turning the big 6-0 in a handful of weeks from now. To many that’s still considered young. I suppose in most respects it is. Marriott, however, won’t even give me a discount for another two years, those greedy bastards. I long ago transitioned from trying to be perfect to merely wishing to experience perfect: drinking the perfect martini, listening to a perfect jazz recording, watching the perfect movie, experiencing the perfect trip, etc. It’s all a state of mind.
George Will, if you’re reading this, I’m ready to be interviewed.
Until next time…