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Perfectly Impossible

February 24, 2012

Perfection used to be reserved for the Divine.  If God was Perfection, and we are not God, we had no right to expect the Perfect in our lives. But, now, for many, God might be out of sight and out of mind, but Perfection has become plausible.

Children often feel that perfection is the natural order of things, and its absence is failure. Melt-downs commence when there is no vanilla ice cream or its raining. You either get a gold star or nothing. “Back in the day” those gold stars were harder to find but in the “we are all winners” world of Boomer parentdom, perfect has become pretty commonplace for our kids.

Our children have lost the distinction between participation and perfection.  Similarly as faith in the supernatural perfection of religious belief ebbs in our culture, the difference between hope and expectation has blurred.

The well-padded and thoroughly validated youth of the typical Boomer-raised child has created false hope that that comfy condition will slide into their adulthood. That rose-colored fantasy crashes into the instantaneous world-wide media celebration of every imperfection of every public figure.  This wall of celebrity imperfection then becomes personal for every uncelebrated individual on social media. A bad hat on your Profile Pic and the hoots redound among the stalking lurkers. The potential for cynicism wells up when surreal anticipation of a perfect game, party, report card, hair style, or clothing item becomes obviously unattainable.

The endless chewing upon imperfection naturally expands to politicians – where every imperfect aspect creates a dramatic potential to bum out the “base.”  In this election cycle, each “base” is exquisitely disappointed in the “imperfections” of its non-radical leaders.   Obama did not insist on single payer health care, Romney thought an individual mandate for health care worked for Massachusetts.

The impossibility of perfection is a fact, but that has not stopped the promotion of it as an expectation that takes a many-colored world into the realm of black and white. The results can distort expectations of everyone.  Even for high achievers, many amazing successes are seen to be just the stepping stone to the next level of expectation – and disappointment.

The high school star athlete is humiliated in attempts to play in college. The straight-A student in high school becomes the B- student at the institution those high school grades enabled her to attend.  The popular oddball in school may just be odd in the workaday world.

Or worse, the inability to attain perfection causes a reset where any effort is viewed as wasted unless it achieves perfection. This no-win land is  where the “slacker” is born and validated.  When perfection is believed to be both possible and a reasonable expectation, reality deflates the value in any effort short of that outcome.

It’s as if without a guarantee of winning a race, the athletes sit down at the starting line and watch the guaranteed winner run solo. For college applicants, the result is any number of “gap years” or transfers when the “perfect” school turns out not to be.  The toggle switch binary of “perfect” or “sucks” is an easy buttress against effort.

What is left for many is a lose-lose situation where perfection is virtually unattainable and reality is undeniably, pervasively flawed.

Perhaps the time is ripe to rediscover that half a loaf is, in fact, better than no loaf.

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