So, if you’re a person who likes to think, you may wonder what the title ‘The Perfect Fallacy’ could possibly mean. Indeed, there’s many interpretations. Among those I can think of, are the following :
- A fallacy that is perfect; it can’t be anything but a fallacy and it is described in a perfect way.
- An oxymoron: how can a fallacy itself be perfect? It actually can’t be if you look at it in these terms.
- And what about: perfectionism?
Well, for anyone that knows me enough, they can probably guess that I don’t mean the first. Although all of them can be interpreted literally (and I am very very literal; take things from word value rather than context), the first one isn’t really possible (see the second one). Now, as I love puns, word play in general as well as being satirical and sarcastic on multiple levels, the second one ‘could’ be it. Is it though? Not exactly, and those who know me will know why: I’m very much a perfectionist, to the point of it defeating my tasks (often enough which equates to more than it should; indeed, if perfectionism is stopping a single thing from being done, its too much).
So, let’s take a definition of perfect from Merriam Webster:
a: being entirely without fault or defect : flawless <a perfect diamond>
b: satisfying all requirements : accurate
So, with the first two definitions/meanings, it is seen that you can literally mean something else from the first. But is b) really all that perfect? Accurate doesn’t really mean perfect. This is especially true if you think of accurate as a percentage. A perfect (pardon the pun) example is: how accurate are you at typing? What about how accurate are you at declaring an animal by its foot print? Looking at it this way, you can see accuracy it isn’t exactly the same thing – you may be 100% accurate in activity X, Y or Z, but that’s not guaranteed.
So, realistically, perfect means flawless. To be perfect means you have no flaws and no faults, and you make no mistakes. The list goes on in ways you can describe it.
With that said, it does kind of push the ‘practice makes perfect’ claim rather ridiculous. But let’s put that aside, because that’s not what I’m trying to get at. I’m most certainly not trying to say you shouldn’t practice, or you shouldn’t try. You should practice the things you need to be good at, and you should try your best. Some say you shouldn’t try but you should only do. However, its worth pointing out that this would depend on the person and the specific thing they are referring to. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t lift 200 pounds even, for example. I wouldn’t get it it off the floor and I would likely strain my back (or feel like a complete idiot for trying it knowing full well I should start out smaller and work my way up to it).
And that’s the key: you need to work on your skills, work on your abilities. Improve upon them.
Question is, why am I writing this? What made me think of this? I think I thought of it as I know I am often critical of certain things but the irony is I’m both a perfectionist and I know full well I am NOT even close to perfect (and in actuality, no one is perfect). I for example am critical of a lot of Microsoft’s decisions. Sure, they may be valid but you know what? They aren’t perfect and that by itself is perfectly (there goes the puns) acceptable. And something else is, they are a very successful company. No matter their flaws, they have a lot of customers and make a lot of money. In that way, they’re successful. They might not be the best with other things, but as a friend I recently talked to (since 2005 last I heard from them) used to always say: You can’t have it all. Truth right there.
As for why I’m writing this? It’s really simple: I feel that we ALL can improve. That includes me by a great deal (and I admit that fully). I also wanted to touch upon the above paragraph: that no matter the mistakes someone or some group makes, it is OK! We as humans are not perfect. Actually, I’m glad of that. If you think about it, any thing that is perfect cannot be improved, so what’s the point? What would you do after you became perfect? You certainly wouldn’t be improving yourself.
Case in point: No one is perfect, and that’s a strength; it is NOT a weakness. If we were perfect, and we had everything we wanted, what would we then gain? Nothing. We might even get overzealous or arrogant and ruin our image.
It might seem ironic that a rather extreme perfectionist is writing this. But you have to remember I’m a very logical person (hence why I really enjoy programming and other computer related things). If you ever think you’re having a perfectionist episode (so to speak), then try to fight it. Put it this way: if you have to have everything perfect, then you’ll never have anything AT ALL. What’s the point in that? I know for me I’ve far too often not finished things because of REALLY stupid things. These stupid (and I do stress really stupid) include the following:
- I couldn’t think of a “perfect” name for a function in a program. This one gets me a lot, and far more than I’d like to believe.
- I can’t think of a “better” or “perfect” name in ANYTHING – not just a program.
- I couldn’t think of a “perfect” way to write something. It’s not like I’m even an English major, so why should I care? I know I write well, and that should be enough. The point of language is to get a point across – to here we go: communicate. Its not to sound smarter or better than someone. It is to communicate. You show how you are through not just words but also ACTIONS (more so the latter I would say).
- If I lose something I’m writing, then I don’t write it all. The reason? Because I know (laughable really that I “know” that) I can’t write it better. In fact, if you think about it, it could be a lot better. It could open up a new thought… or a new way of working on something. (And if you think about it – some of the most important inventions were accidents and that includes medical discoveries. Imagine that: a scientist discovering something by accident and it being more important than other things he set out to discover intentionally).
That’s only a small portion of things that stop me cold in whatever it is. That itself is a huge flaw/problem with me. The fact I’m not perfect does not matter. What does matter and is a huge problem is that I try to be. I’m not. No one is.
The Perfect Fallacy is both an oxymoron and also not an oxymoron: being perfect actually IS a fallacy which means it isn’t an oxymoron (as being perfect is a fallacy and impossible). Yet, at the same time, there’s no such thing as being perfect, so surely its an oxymoron (perfect versus fallacy – they’re opposing terms). Take your pick, but if you can think in logical terms, and see the bigger picture (and in colour) then you can see how it can be both at the same time.
As for not being perfect, that does not mean you shouldn’t improve or learn something new. It means you can get better and better. No matter how good you are, there’s likely someone better than you (This also applies to illness; no matter how bad you are off, there’s others who are much worse). Practice does not make perfect but it does something even better: it makes you a better and ever improving person.
So yes, practice your skills. Improve. But never let yourself get to the point where you think you’re perfect or you think some other person is perfect. When you get to that point, or try to get to that point, the game is actually lost because its impossible to get to the end. It’s a maze with no end and the start makes little difference. In fact, the maze is quite a long, convoluted and infuriating one. Lots of puzzles to solve, lots of obstacles, yet when you get around them 10 more show up – ad infinitum.