Analysis, Reflection

I can’t throw boomerangs, anyway

I started to write a piece called “Boomerangs All The Way Up”, in implicit answer to the title “Turtles All The Way Down” by John Green. The day before, I picked a fortune cookie (one of the browner ones, on purpose) from the breakfast buffet table at the Alumni Brunch. It was a good day; the fortune read “It’s time to complete some unfinished business”.

I loved it instantly. My whole psyche yearned aloud for that. Old novel ideas, revived. Unaccounted missteps in my career and personal life, redeemed. My silver-plated trumpet, returned with high polish. Cactus imagery, rendered in new depth. Whatever came to mind. One by one I would fling every crooked thought at the perfect angle and watch it return, straight and true, to exactly where it should be. Every loop would finally be closed and I could begin to move-on with living, with finally becoming successful…

Now, I am listening to “A Love Supreme” as recorded by John Coltrane and the rest of his quarter in 1965. I need this to be a spiritual experience. The boomerangs are not flying back into my controlling palm, not making their mathematically divine trip through the atmosphere in stunning displays of mastery, but are hung in bushes, lodged into river banks, and disappearing into unseen wormholes. My crooked thoughts trace no rings.

I never believed I qualified as a perfectionist. No number of accusations from friends or family made any difference to me– I never understood how anyone could mistake me for a perfectionist. Imagine the scrolling list of things about which, I know, I am lax. I do. Perfectionists always impressed me as people who were moderately successful but not satisfied with the result– high-functioning people. How could being a perfectionist lead to so many miscarriages of function, on my part? I wasn’t a perfectionist because, it seemed to me, that I had multitude problems to solve and errors to correct, boomerangs to catch and rings to close, but people were trying to lower my standards. Misguidedly benign, they were trying to impose systematic-soldiering on me. Then, I would be doomed to failure, unable to defend against mistakes, never able to– to– well…

A new thought bloomed. The kinesthetic pumping of my arms as I did push-ups drew it from the depths: I had an ideal for perfectionism. A perfectionist had to be someone who was already high-functioning and I did not qualify. In my mind, I was too far from the ideal to qualify for that pathology. My perfect idea of perfectionism was a central, uncontested Gordian-knot.

I’m going to earn that analogy: Alexander the Great cut the knot with his sword. What a horrid solution– yet, what a pointless challenge. What does untying the knot prove? Sometimes, a mother-fucker needs to be cut.

But who doesn’t know that? I burned something in my stir-fry. I missed a spot on the window. I cut someone off in traffic. I don’t care about any of those things. Doing things imperfectly was synonymous with not truly caring. Writing. Research. Relationships. I cared about those things so I tried to do them well– up until now, “well” has meant striving for the ideal. Even when a good-natured professor warned that “the great is the enemy of the good” I always assumed that “great” was a mark further afield, one that I could not see, and that “good” was SECRETLY the true ideal and I needed to get closer to the ideal, regardless. The problem might be in how I construct ideals. Unfortunately, I probably cannot untie that knot so… I need to cut a mother-fucker, even when I value the process. The central tension in the word “praxis” is the assumed customary ideal versus the process of practice and reflection. Put into less abstract terms, it means we scoop our ice-cream into balls that are imperfect because perfecting a ball of ice-cream destroys it before it can be enjoyed. My analogy doesn’t perfectly encapsulate this concept but my agonizing over this paragraph demonstrates it perfectly: this paragraph is turning into a scoop of ice-cream that’s good enough to eat, not put on display in a museum — and which is more likely? Eat this and tell me how it tastes, readers.

Is this piece of writing an act of practice and reflection or am I trying to reach…

Could this piece of writing ‘speak’ better by being less processed, more raw and rough-edged?

Thoughts? Please comment

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