100 Watts : “Out of perfection nothing can be made. Every process involves breaking something up.”


The words of the late great American mythologist Joseph Campbell sum up my column this week which was about the relentless pursuit of perfection.  No I’m not referring to the shiny 400hp hybrid prestige car but the constant push to homogenization, to fall into lockstep.

You can read it here:

Download this file

The inspiration for it came from reading Anna Quindlen’s Commencement speech she delivered to Mount Holyoke College back in 1999.

As she points out most commencement speeches suggest taking something up.  Instead Quindlen suggests giving something up:

“Give up the backpack. Give up the nonsensical and punishing quest for perfection that dogs too many of us through too much of our lives. It is a quest that causes us to doubt and denigrate ourselves, our true selves, our quirks and foibles and great leaps into the unknown, and that is bad enough.

But nothing important, or meaningful, or beautiful, or interesting, or great ever came out of imitations. The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.

This is more difficult, because there is no zeitgeist to read, no template to follow, no mask to wear. Set aside what your friends expect, what your parents demand, what your acquaintances require. Set aside the messages this culture sends, through its advertising, its entertainment, its disdain and its disapproval, about how you should behave.

Imitations are redundant. Yourself is what is wanted.”

You can read the entire speech here:

It’s such a fitting message for a graduating class to hear, and so eloquently delivered by the exceptionally talented Quindlen.

One often hears that the secret is to know when to stop and Quindlen’s speech all but gives away that secret.

A secret  revealed by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry when he claimed :

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

When you’re constrained to 100 words, there isn’t much that one can take away. 

None of my columns are perfect, but they’re all mine. 

And that’s good enough for me.



Watts on your mind?

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