2 a: an exemplification of supreme excellence b: an unsurpassable degree of accuracy or excellence
Last Saturday, Philip Humber, pitcher for the Chicago White Sox, threw a perfect game, joining the exclusive ranks of just 20 others who have achieved this feat, including Sandy Koufax, Jim Bunning, former teammate Mark Buehrle and Catfish Hunter. In baseball, everyone knows what "perfection" means -- at least, perfection for a pitcher: no runs, no hits, no walks and no errors, not a single opponent reaches a base.
Perfection in other endeavors is just as elusive to define. What would it take to achieve perfection as a business owner or an attorney? An ever-increasing profit margin and a tidy quarterly return for investors? An uninterrupted string of victories in court? How about for comedians? Would perfection mean a laugh for every joke? For actors, an Academy Award for each performance?
Impossible, you say. Absolutely!
And for writers, fuhgeddaboudit! Seeking perfection in every sentence (or any sentence for that matter) guarantees a yawning empty page or blank screen at the end of the day. Writers' block is the curse of perfectionism.
Many other learned men (women, not so much) have expounded on the topic of perfection, with some overlap, but very little agreement.
However, many great thinkers do encourage the pursuit of perfection in spite of this risk. Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers accepted that "perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence." (Or maybe a Hail Mary pass at that last second to win a crucial game!)
George Orwell weighed in on that as well: "The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection." Saint Augustine (himself a recovered very flawed sinner) wanted to have it both ways: "This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections."
But perhaps my favorite quote about perfection comes from another man who knew something about imperfection (particularly in the use of the English language, since he was a renowned mangler of nouns, verbs and adjectives),
"Look at our Lord's disciples. One denied Him; one doubted Him; one betrayed Him. If our Lord couldn't have perfection, how are you going to have it in city government?"