June 2nd, 2011, Museo dell’Accademia, Firenze, Italia
(From my journal). His hands were gigantic. He stood there, exalted, 17 feet of sheer grandeur. As I inched toward him it was like a movie in slow motion as the figure came to life. He leaned slightly to the right, arrogantly as if to say, “come and get me.” He boasted a naturally built physique, veins protruded out of his right arm, a rock in his grasp. His slingshot rested casually on his shoulder. He waited for his challenger, patiently, indifferently.
His face, freshly shaven gave an air of confidence. His hair was like a cartoonish wig with detailed curls and a small fro in the front. He was styled for battle. His stare sent a shiver down my spine.
I wondered what he was looking at. The future of a nation rest at his fingertips. Triumph and he’d be a titan. Fail and he’d be forgot. As I stood there in awe, I asked myself but one question, “If this is David, then how big must Goliath be?
June 24th, 2011, Laguna Beach, California
There are few times, when we as humans are truly inspired by something. A cold shiver comes over us, giving us the chills. A hair stands up on the back of our neck, sending a ping of electro magnetic shock throughout our body. It’s the wave of ecstasy that sweeps over us as the crescendo of a symphony finishes to roaring applause. Inspiration comes in many forms but it’s a product of the same virtue, greatness.
And how is this greatness measured? For a word of such reverence, it’s end all point must be the epitome of that idea, set in an unattainable place. This elusive utopia is like the end of the rainbow, we see it, but never quite get there. In a word, the highest expression of greatness is perfection.
The key is finding the formula, the properties which compose this magical compound we know as greatness and putting them to use. When we dissect this idea, we see that what can seem like a mysterious compound is actually quite simplistic. Similarly to hydrogen and oxygen composing water, passion and perseverance produce perfection.
This formula, will prove to be the measurement to that which we achieve and how we are remembered. But how do we reach such perfection? Ironically, we can’t, as the notion of perfection in itself is an unattainable goal. For this we should be grateful because once we reach a state of contentment, the struggle to improve ceases, just like a hunger is sated after a meal.
What makes Roger Federer get up in the morning and hit tennis balls when he goes undefeated on the grass court for five consecutive years? Isn’t it enough that he has a “perfect” record?
John Wooden, the most winning basketball coach of all time teaches us about what he calls Competitive Greatness. “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable.” When we see this idea through a different lens, its purpose becomes clear. The point is not whether we’ll ever be perfect at something because we already know we will fall short.
Roger Federer isn’t trying to be the best, because he already is. He’s trying to be better than himself. Definitions affirmed, we must first ask, why bother striving for such an idea?
This notion of perfection is vital to us as humans because it stands for something which tests our limits. This passion of which it’s comprised propels us to succeed as a race. Without this, we are lost, grazing through life as sheep.
Humans live. Sheep exist.
A sheep cannot feel inspiration and thus cannot pursue any higher level of excellence. If we take this limited approach to life it reduces our race to theirs, a primitive state of existence. Furthermore, if we are going to consider ourselves a dominant species, we have a responsibility to preserve that which makes us superior. That being our ability, unique only to us as humans, to be inspired, produce and create. Otherwise, we’re eating grass.
We should ask ourselves, what is the point of pursuing an activity, if we’re not passionate about it? Personally, I’ve struggled with this battle my entire life, wasting time with activities that I didn’t care about or half committing myself to various tasks.
Over the years, I’ve come to love simplicity, taking on a few challenges and doing them completely, giving all that I have. When considering undertaking a new goal, why even start if your ambition is not to do your absolute best?
If excellence is a virtue or perhaps even an obligation, then settling for mediocrity is a sin for it means the activity which we are pursuing lacks zeal. How can Picasso be satisfied with an average painting? If you ever have a doubt as to what you are passionate about, just look at the level of un incentivized effort you are willing to put in. When we are content with average, it means we are spending our time working toward that which is not our true purpose.
On the contrary, when we’re passionate about something and truly dedicate ourselves to it, then this will undoubtedly be our most important endeavor. When this is the case, often times we find ourselves embarrassed to reveal our cards for its such a deep reflection of ourselves. Ask me to draw and I’d happily show you a stick figure while laughing at my incompetence, but ask me to paint the same picture with words, and I’m compelled to produce my best because my writing is my joy.
With this in mind I bid you to go and futilely attempt perfection, the ultimate expression of our ability as humans. Scale this mountain, if only to look around and appreciate the scenery before returning and planning your next adventure. For the lucky few, they are buried up there. Five hundred years later we still listen to their symphonies, take pictures of their buildings and marvel at their sculptures.
As I admired the David’s greatness I realized that this is the closest I’ve come to witnessing perfection. If we cannot approach our task with fervent energy, we must wait until we can, or not do it at all, accepting that perhaps this particular pursuit was something that we didn’t want as bad as we originally thought. There’s nothing wrong with that. The goal isn’t to find something that we can dedicate ourselves 99.9%, but that which we can’t live without doing 100%.
This passion makes our life worth living. This life makes us human. This totality makes us perfect. ♠