about growing older.
Learning to love imperfection.
Not easy to do, especially for a perfectionist,
and what writer is not a perfectionist? Still,
learning to love imperfection is a lot easier
than pursuing perfection in myself & others
as I did when I was younger, and causing acute
suffering for myself & others as a result.
As a writer, I finish a work, after revising & rewriting
again & again. I am certain it is finally perfect. Then
I return to Page 1 to bask in its perfection, only
to find imperfection after imperfection that I could
not have possibly missed before. But there they are,
bold as day. A manuscript is a living thing & like all
living things is rife with imperfection. The better writer
I am, the more imperfections in my writing. I know now
that the key to becoming the best writer I can be in making
a story is to ride my imperfections like a wave. In fact, my voice
is really nothing but the wave of my imperfections that
the story is riding.
I have learned to listen, learned the pleasure of listening,
learned that that is what people want--to be listened to,
to be heard. We want somebody to say, "I believe you"
when we tell them what we really feel and think.
"I hear you & I believe you." But I love words,
especially my own, so while I have learned to listen
I often fail to listen and am only waiting for you to finish
so I can let you listen to me. I know what is right, what is good,
but I am imperfect & fall short of my values, principles, high ideals.
And sometimes I can even laugh at myself at last, my aspirations
& my fumbling, fitful attempts to reach them.
If I can't accept my own imperfections, how can I accept
yours, or my characters, or the constant re-germination
of the flaws in my art & craft that I could have sworn I slew
finally & for good?
I want to be kind. If I had heard an old man express such a desire
when I was young, I would have gagged. I would have felt sorry
for the old misguided cornball geezer. Kindness was for squares.
Not that I was particularly cruel, or valued cruelty, but certainly
I lived by a code of sarcasm & cynicism, and wasn't about to
be kind & therefore used & abused by a clearly unkind &
A good thing, to want to be kind, but part of this desire is simply
wanting to avoid the pain that I now know comes from being
thoughtless, from not caring, from self-centeredness, from
cruelty in all its sly little guises. And of course I want kindness in return,
quid pro quo. I once valued smart-assness, snottiness, but now
the world is overrun by it, by cutting one-upmanship, & I'm finally
tired of it & want gentleness, tenderness, sincerity. Yet of course
I appreciate cruelty if it is directed (by others or myself) at one
who I feel deserves it, at least until he or she cracks & breaks
from that cruelty, and then I'm eager to dispense pity, compassion,
Imperfection. Hypocrisy. La Rochefoucauld declared
"Hypocrisie est un hommage que la vice rend à la vertu,"
translated to "Hypocrisy is a tribute vice pays to virtue."
If only a perfect person could speak of virtue, nobody
would speak of virtue. We are all hypocrites, all imperfect,
all practice vices, even enthusiastically, yet most know that
virtue is better than vice, for ourselves and others. Why
is it so difficult to do the things that are best for me?
There are many reasons but they boil down to this: I am imperfect.
Unless I want to be constantly dissatisfied with myself &
contemptuous of others, I need to come to terms with this
universal imperfection. If I want to love real human beings, I
am going to have to love their imperfections. If there is any
perfection in me it is due to the way I deal with my imperfections.
If I'm an individual, my individualism is written clearest in
the way I communicate my imperfections to you & the world.
To value listening, being kind, writing with truth & beauty (& laughter).
To advance (what's so funny about) peace, love & understanding
in a frightened world. And, above all, to be the imperfect man
& artist that God apparently means me to be. Those are my favorite
growing-older things. And somehow to dig it all, to love it all, because
imperfection is how I am & how everybody I know is, in this our
excruciatingly imperfect & quickly growing-older world.