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On Perfection

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on February 05, 2015 9:30 AM

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What does perfection mean to you?  I always disliked the idea of perfection, but a new definition has made me think differently.  Maybe perfection isn't as unattainable as we thought, and we can see moments of perfection all around us.

I am addicted to “Call The Midwife,” a British show about midwives in a poor part of London in the 50’s just after the Second World War. 

In Episode 5, two of the characters face challenges. One of the midwives, a religious sister, has an alcoholic brother, and a couple have a daughter with Downs Syndrome who becomes pregnant. The sister loves her brother but struggles with him drinking and living rough on the street. The husband and wife want to keep their daughter safe, like any parents, but struggle with how to be with her differences.

The program is originally based on the real-life memoir of an English woman, Jennifer Worth. On TV, every episode starts and ends with the older version of Jennifer, played by Vanessa Redgrave introducing and closing the story. This quote is from Epsiode 5. It touched my heart.

“Perfection is not a polished thing. It is often simply something that is sincerely meant. Perfection is a job complete, praise given, a prayer heard, it can be kindness shown, thanks offered up. Perfection is what we discover in each other–what we see reflected back….And if perfection alludes us –that doesn’t matter for what we have within the moment is enough.” Call the Midwife (BBC Television)

In the story, the parents love their daughter so much even though she is different, and, in the same way, the sister loves her brother even though he has his challenges.

For me I have never been a fan of perfection. Perfection always seemed to mean painful, hard, and, in the end, unattainable. 

As much as I tried at various times in my life to write something which looked right, or have the most magical evening where everyone had a good time and there were no mistakes, or make my home just right with everything matching except those things that should never match, it never worked. 

There was always something which would happen. The report would have a typo or the font would change from Roman to Arial. The evening would have a problematic waiter or a dessert which was overpriced and tasteless. The house would be great, but then there would be a stain on the rug or a scratch on the new antique table.

The TV show's definition of perfection is one based on how our hearts connect for a moment with each other and with the world around us. Perfection is that time when someone reads a report and smiles or stops to think because they know that what is there is true for them. Perfection is that time when everything stops at a dinner and you just notice the candle light reflecting on a glass and see how everyone is talking and smiling around the table. Or Perfection is that time when you stop and watch the sun shining in the window and bathing everything in your home with light so your world is golden.

That is perfection for me. It is with us every day, every hour and every minute if we can stop, look and listen. It is not 100% or an A grade; it is that feeling that we find in our heart as we notice life happening around us and realize we are part of it!

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