August 5, 2013

I Read Philosophy Stuff Today. Can You Tell?

Perfection is the enemy of the good, too often. We find ourselves focused on shortcomings, on what could have been or should have been, if things had only been just so, just this little bit different in this one tiny way, then, then there would be utopia.

This is an idea with roots in many philosophies, but this specific phrasing invokes Voltaire, noted French enlightenment thinker, and purported drinker of immense quantities of coffee. Cool guy, probably.

But, you think, if I aim for perfection, then I will be at least good, if not a little better. If I aim merely for good, and fall short, then what? Aim for the moon, land amongst the stars, right?

Astrological falsehoods aside, no, typically that's not how it works. People who aim for "perfect", when they perceive that they have failed, tend to embellish that failure, to indulge in it fully and wholly. Often, having "failed", they quit altogether, abandoning their pursuit for something else, or worse, nothing at all.

This is, of course, counterproductive. Perfection, such as it is, is a destination, a place at the end of a long and usually impossible journey. You can never be there without taking the necessary steps to arrive, and so the focus should be on those steps, on that progress. Be present in what you do every day, do it well, do it consistently, do it consistently well. That is the ideal.

In work, and in running, this is a valuable notion to internalize. And I try and do so. But of course, it's axiomatically true that, if perfection is the enemy of the good, then one ought not be perfect in avoiding perfection, or at least the pursuit thereof, lest they become too complacent. Right? Right. Maybe.

So... I don't know. Voltaire was not a life coach and certainly not a running coach. He wrote a lot of things and drank a lot of coffee and wore a giant fucking powdered wig, because why not, I guess, but he did not run fast, probably not even at all.

Still, I think it is relevant. Do your best and give approximately zero shits about the gap between "best" and "perfect". Do that and good gets to be pretty damn good.

If I got a yearbook for being not quite middle aged but not really young anymore either that would probably be my quote. That or "Potatoes!"

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