I have not attained it but I have wasted a good deal of time waiting for it. Not LOOKING for it or WORKING for it, mind you. Just waiting for it. Like it’s going to fall on me like some heavenly gift and everything I touch will be a glimmering example of the unassailable.
So far, still waiting.
But what is the motive for this paralyzing need? Many motives, I suppose, but in my case, it’s the avoidance of shame. If I don’t do it (whatever “it” happens to be at any given time) perfectly, everyone will laugh at me and scorn me and I’ll have to live with the humiliation of it.
But what if (and this is just conjecture, here. No need to convulse into what David Foster Wallace called the “howling fantods.”), what if we/I were willing to do the rational thing and put the quest for perfection aside, focusing instead on creating. The act of creation. The art of it. What if we/I were able—indeed, insistent upon—accepting the fundamental flaw of our humanness and moving forward, anyway? What then?
Well, in the first place, I’d probably do it wrong and then everyone would know I’m even a fuck-up at being a fuck-up. I couldn’t stand it.
What would it be like to embrace my own flawed art—the creation of my own flawed mind and my own flawed gift—joyously and fully, with a sense of quiet contentment? What then?
The less I focused on myself and how I wished to be perceived, and the more I focused on the art inside me, the freer I would become. Confidence in the work—not in myself—would be all it took to liberate me.
The constant inner goading for perfection renders the artist impotent. Nothing gets done. The piece is never painted, never written, never performed, never sung, never anything.
The belief that perfection can even be attained at all is the height of contemptible (and dangerous) hubris. Maybe the Phoenix could rise again and again but don’t count on that happening for you. Eventually the overwrought soul crumples and exhales its imperfect breath for the last time.
Better to step forward and be brave about it. Love the art more than you love yourself, and conceive something that never existed before and will most certainly last longer than you will.
The art is worth the sacrifice of the self. Always has been. Always will be.
© Camille Moffat 2010
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