"If we can fall for each other Perfect," a guest blog post by Richard Alwyn Fisher.
“If we can fall for each other’s ‘perfect’ self, we may become more perfect” is one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard in a long time
and it made me think of a line I’ve been working on:
He kept staring at her eyes as if within them
he could see the map to how perfect his life would become.
Good old perfect
what a thing to think about, yeah?
a target, a ghost
There’s a line in a song by Matthew Sweet that goes:
‘I didn’t think I’d find you perfect in so many ways’
that I have always in my mind punctuated
‘I didn’t think I’d find you, Perfect, in so many ways
and I’ve been waiting
and I want to
It’s a funny thing, Perfect, always striving for it
chasing after it
living up to it
using it to make the good feel second rate.
And the search for love is where old perfect seems to cause the most troubles.
Maybe you’ve been told you’re looking for a tailor fit in an off-the-rack world,
or maybe you think you’ve had Perfect
perfect except for it lasting.
I have a friend who tells me, “Perfect will not come without all sorts of adjustments needed.” And she, for one, likes the project, likes taking them off the rack and trying to make the fit a fit. But then she also admits to more than once trying to force an arm down a sleeve, hearing a tear and trying to sneak the bewildered garment back onto the shelf, thinking no real damage done, hoping no one will notice, but it always notices, doesn’t it, and now it’s even less perfect.
In so many late night teary conversations where one tries to convince another of the perfection they’re so close to, the arguments are always false, circular, negated by the fact that an argument has to be mounted in defense of it all anyway; like a shady tailor trying to pass off his shoddy craftsmanship, he pulls on the back “Fit’s in the front,” pulls on the front, “Fit’s in the back.”
She claims to have never sought the perfect ones, only to make something about him or something about herself or the two of them together or some small part of the experience into a bit of perfection. And maybe it’s that bit that can shine in the half-light of the argument’s morning after and light the way for two seekers of their own little perfects. Or maybe it’s a shadow of something she just thought she saw, like the afterburn of the sun on her retina, blinding her in an otherwise well lit room.
“But the idea of something that requires no alternations, no changes,” she says, “that’s almost like some 1870s ideal of a soul mate.” But maybe it’s an even more ancient, more stylized idealism that’s a better parallel.
The Imitation of Christ holds out Christ and the saints as perfection, and gives the reader directions for a striving toward this always. “If we were to uproot only one vice each year, we should soon become perfect.” Soon? Really? Perhaps the readers of such a book are much closer to perfection that I am. At least for certain they have a greater amount of patience. One vice a year, and you’ve got to have at least, let’s say nine vices, that’s nine years, at the inside. “You say it’s going to happen soon, well, when exactly do you mean?” to paraphrase another crooner from my youth who’s probably struggled a bit with the whole perfect question. I’ve always taken my solace and thus guidance in the fact that while no one can ever be truly perfect, it is still worth reaching for. That self-improvement is never wasted time.
But being perfect and having something perfect, finding Perfect, in so many ways, are very different things. The Imitation gives us another quote “The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the ear filled with hearing,” and it reminds me of an interview I transcribed with a scientist who studied butterflies—actually he studied what he called superstimulants and had done an experiment on butterflies. So there is this species of butterflies who choose their mates basically by watching the speed at which they flap their wings. It’s not a difficult evolutionary rubric to figure out: The butterflies who flapped their wings more often were healthier, would yield healthier offspring, and as such make more attractive mates. So what the scientists did is they created a superstimulant, a little mechanical butterfly that could flap its wings faster than any real butterfly possibly could, and put it out among the population. Well, it was a sensation. All the butterflies wanted to mate with this mechanical butterfly and even after they figured out that they could not (if a butterfly actually has the capacity to ‘figure out’ something), they were less interested in mating with the real butterflies because they had been so superstimulated by this fake-ass butterfly. Conceivably an entire generation of butterflies was wiped out or at least came to regard their eventual mates in comparison as subpar underachievers. Things start getting rough around the butterfly household and the inevitable is brought up, “Oh, sure, you’re real and everything, but you should have seen what I could have had, wings flapping like you wouldn’t believe, my life could have been perfect if not for you.”
“If you would persevere in seeking perfection,
you must consider yourself a pilgrim, an exile on earth.”
And perhaps this is what we are and will always remain, pilgrims, seekers, exiles, unable to find this elusive perfection and unwilling to settle for anything less. And yet, moth-like true believers that we are in the Perfect, we go back to the flickering sites of internet dating, the candles between cocktails, the fix-up, the dinner party, the singles social, and each time we meet someone new we look for those shimmering signs of perfection, how their wings beat faster than we’d ever imagined possible, how we start to beat our wings faster than we’d ever imagined we could and how good it feels when we do. And maybe that’s what that feeling of early love really is, the excitement, the sense of floating and then also of a finding a home deeper than you’ve ever had before, that you’re freer and safer, that you know you are moving toward something that will help you to become more perfect.