Perfection

Yes, perfection…which I once thought of as simply a foolish misconception that could not possibly be real, that couldn’t actually happen under any circumstance. Because even though each of our concepts of perfection is somewhat different, still the idea of perfection emerges as some sort of untouchable wonderfulness that could rarely, if at all, be duplicated.

I labored, from time to time, with this thought, sometimes wanting, even hoping I could find perfection in something, anything! Lo and behold, it turned out to be nothing more than my inability to think of perfection in larger, more expansive terms than my micro-managed concept of it.

You see, I had this conversation with an artist one evening, an artist that I truly respected. His name was Jeff Baxter. All his friends, me included, know him as “Skunk.” I’ll say no more about him right now, Google him… you’ll be surprised.

I had discussed this idea of perfection before, with other musicians and artists. As we were young musicians and artists, all laboring under the illusion that we were striving for perfection, it was an easy and available topic to light upon. Skunk’s concept of it was no different from a half dozen others I’d heard, yet I respected it and remembered it, because Skunk was not only a brilliant musician… he was smarter than shit. And I knew it.

He frowned. “Yeah, I don’t know if there’s any real perfection in the world. It certainly doesn’t exist in any of the women I’ve dated.” He laughed. “But no. I mean, every recording I’ve done, everything I’ve played… when I hear it back, there’s always something I wish I could change to make it better. I know producers and engineers who keep tweaking their projects way past their completion, to the point where if there were any perfection in it, they would’ve passed it long ago. And anyway, it’s just a concept. Probably an old Bob Dylan cut, in all its tonal and technical weirdness, is closer to perfection than we’d be willing to believe.”

And right there I think Skunk was touching on the truth of the matter. For perfection, per se, has a better chance of becoming a tangible reality through simplicity. In perfection’s case, the less elements, the better. I’ve observed that the older some folks get, the better they come to understand this. Some of my friends, B & I included, have simplified our lives to one degree or another in recent years, and have enjoyed the fruits of that exercise.

But back to my search. I wanted to know where perfection might be in my life… what it might look like, would I recognize it, etc. I had been so sure that perfection in anything was a myth, a dream-world concept that could not possibly materialize in any physical form. And right there was another problem of mine – thinking that any self-respecting perfection was required to show itself in some sort of physical form. I had to finally realize that simply wasn’t possible, as any physical happening that we perceived to be a “perfect” was simply that…our perception of it! OMG. That elucidation led me to conclude that there might be perfection happening all over the place, contrary to my earlier belief.

Well. That seemed to complicate the matter more, and I decided to let that sleeping dog lie… it seemed to me that no one else was concerned with what form perfection might take, assuming it existed at all. I put the whole matter on the back burner and decided that I couldn’t find a reasonable answer to the question of the existence of perfection… and decided to be temporarily content to see if the answer might find me.

You know how crazy our minds work… how the littlest things can trigger a thought, an emotion. I was playing a piece several years back, It Only Takes A Moment, from Hello Dolly. The song means a lot to Betty and me, and I found my eyes wet towards the end of the song. It was such a beautiful feeling, to have a song move me to feel love on such a level that my eyes got wet with tears. And then it hit me… OH!!! THIS IS PERFECTION!! Perceived or not, that moment was perfection for me, a moment when time stood still and my heart was so full of love! So it did exist, after all!

That pretty much opened the floodgates of perfection for me. I began remembering countless times in my life when things seemed “perfect.” I remembered telling a friend about a carefree day I’d had, and he had said, “Damn! I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a carefree day…” That was hard for me to believe at the time, but I now know it was probably true. On examination, I’ve found (and remembered) that almost half my life has been filled with carefree days, and the only problem with that is that I’ve taken most of them for granted… thinking that everyone must be experiencing life in the same way I have. Eh… not so, as it turns out.

I’d bet that we’ve all said this, or at least we guys have said this : “It don’t get any better than this.” I’m guessing that this is us, acknowledging our perception of perfection without actually saying it. I can now remember countless times throughout my life when it didn’t get any better than that. Am I easier to please? Is my concept of perfection much lower than average? Could be… and if so, what a lucky person that is, a person who can find perfection in her everyday life. And no, it’s not a mental defect of sorts, perhaps just a lower bar of expectations that yields quicker, better results. But I don’t even believe that. I’m more inclined to think that some of us are simply blessed more than others, and all we have to do to keep it going is to appreciate it, be grateful for it, and pass it on.

It’s a little harder than it sounds, as we tend to takes things for granted so easily. When things are good, we begin expecting them to always be good. Those escalating expectations can kill us. When we’re set up to roll with the ups and downs of life, it’s far easier for us to appreciate the good days, the little glimmers of perfection that often steal in when we least expect them.

It was naive and pretentious of me to ever believe that most of the artists in the world were like me, struggling for perfection, not sure what it would look like, and never quite able to reach it with their abilities. My god!! One of the many things I didn’t realize back then was that this world has always been, and still is, teeming with genius types, in all fields. Our artist geniuses have not only conceived and displayed their genius in perfection, they probably took their genius, and their ensuing perfection, for granted. They had to know, for example, when the David was finished, when the Last Supper was done. Hell, their work might actually have not been perfection in their eyes, but it damn sure has been perfection in ours! I know that many of the works of Mozart and Bach are works of perfection. Mozart’s Piano Concerto #21, to me and to many, is a stunning work of beauty and perfection. It took me deep into my 30’s to hear this piece and realize what it was, as the hair on my arms stood straight up.

As we said up front, only our individual perception can decide if anything in this world is indeed perfect. Having poo pooed the idea of perfection for over 30 years, I now find examples of it nearly every day. Last week, for instance, I was sitting out on our deck one morning with my coffee. A blue sky, sunny morning, the birds were chirping away, the cove below was deep blue and calm, and the sweet smell of Betty’s yellow roses were drifting across the deck with the mildest warm breeze. I had to smile. How beautiful, how perfect!

Then, just two days ago, Betty and I were having lunch in our favorite rancher’s cafe and bar in Conway. The country rock was floating across the room, farmers and ranchers were sitting at the tables and booths, caps on, masks off… the Bloody Mary had started working its magic, as the burgers and the heavenly Conway fries with Ranch were Soooo delicious. “Sweetie,” I grinned across at Betty, mouthful of burger and onion, “It just don’t git no better than this!”

Steve Hulse