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Constant movement: I often make mistakes when I write these articles, I leave out a word or muddle “a” and “e” so that “real” becomes “rael” or, more rarely, do things like confuse “James Connolly” for “Michael Collins” (as “the Irish Trotsky”). Usually, I go back and correct these errors—because they still rankle me. But I think it’s better just to do something than for it to be perfect. It’s like the General Patton quote: “A good solution applied with vigour now is better than a perfect solution applied ten minutes late.” He’s just saying “the perfect is the enemy of the good” in his own words—but it’s still true.

Again, “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly”—I have never actually had someone misunderstand what I meant due to a typo, or even a factual error. It’s better than some people who are paralysed from doing anything because “it wouldn’t be right”. It’s like climbing a high diving board and then gingerly clinging to the metal guide rail, never jumping. Either go up and jump or never go up, but don’t stand there afraid to begin.

Nobody really cares anyway, and the people who care about “perfect copy” are pedants and narcissists who don’t have anything to say anyway, so they just worry about whether it’s an “em dash” or an “en dash”. As if that makes any difference—yu cn actlly altr lgng 2 a grt dgre & stll b dootsrednu.

Perfectionists are always angry, miserable people—because they’re all about image. It has to “look perfect”—the desire for perfection is unexpressed anger. That’s why all these people who are worried about “getting it right” and about commas and so on are so passive-aggressive. They’re really angry, because they express their anger as perfectionism.

I knew a girl who once made this really elaborate almost minute to minute plan for her holiday—in a folder, with appropriate high-lighting and neat pencil work. It’s pointless—it was just to alleviate her anxiety and to give her somewhere to put her unexpressed anger, pertly coloured in.

There’s an Arab tale that the Devil was the only angel who refused to bow down to man when God created man—this was because he maintained that only God was perfect and, therefore, he alone merited worship. So, in this story, the Devil is God’s greatest loyalist, he is so loyal to God that he disobeys God’s command because man is not perfect—which is true. But it also means that to be a perfectionist is to be like the Devil—and women are the Devil’s natural allies because they want to be perfect (which is associated with narcissism, the perfect image—the perfect kerning on that project you printed out).

It’s the letter of the law (literally) and not the spirit. The point Patton makes, which is the same as Jesus, is that it is more important to be willing than to be right. Most people want to be right—and that’s what most arguments, especially online, are about. “I’ll prove you wrong”, “I’ll show you”. But these people are just angry—and even if the other person said, “Okay, you’re right,” they’d never be satisfied because it was always about anger anyway (not whatever they pretended to talk about).

It’s more important to be whole than to be right. It’s more important to be holy. This is like the Japanese concept wabi-sabi; it’s where they make a perfect ceramic pot and then introduce a deliberate flaw into it—that’s because perfection isn’t real, while beauty is whole (it leaves nothing out). You see the same with Mona Lisa’s beauty spot—the flaw off-sets her beauty, the whole point of a beauty spot; and the “beauty spot” itself is litotes, because it expresses the opposite of its stated description (i.e. the beauty spot is ugly).

Perfectionists never do anything that interests, because they never make mistakes—they are not “allowed to”, you see; and they never let up on other people because they never let up on themselves, they are merciless because they suffer a constant critical internal monologue—itself associated with depression, which is also unexpressed anger; because all these things go together.

People aren’t here to be perfect, they’re here to be whole—which is beautiful. And beautiful because flawed.

It’s why I don’t like the dictionary. Dr. Johnson said some sensible things, but he was mostly a miserable narcissist. The dictionary is like a central bank for words—it’s all about control of the linguistic currency. Rather like an actual currency, the language should be allowed to find its own level.

Mostly, slang words drop out of circulation very fast—many, many words come and go within two or three years as teenagers grow up. To “crash at your pad” is now an almost incomprehensible phrase, one that I only know because my parents used it—because they said it as teenagers, and when I was a teenager they thought they could bond with me by speaking to me as they spoke as teenagers.

So most words don’t last, though the linguistic core remains. Dictionaries, aside from etymological dictionaries, try to impose meaning on language. People then go to them and think the word’s meaning is in the dictionary—when, of course, at a certain level, it’s just a huge ouroboros that eats its own tail in a loop, for every definition leads to another and so on forever. However, as we see today, when people hijack the dictionary they can “print their own currency”—so that definitions are changed every day to fool people. That’s when you need to burn the dictionaries, and give up control—but perfectionists love to be in control.

Perfectionists are never in control because you can never eliminate imperfection. Life is a dynamic thing, it grows—as it grows it makes mistakes. Perfect things are like marble statues, they always shatter in the end—but a tree cannot shatter.


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