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The mystery of perfection

Published: 
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Reflections of the Water

I have been looking for the perfect opening line, but the more I search and synthesise what is known, the harder it is to find. To be a great artist, musician or athlete is to relentlessly strive for perfection. 

With each repetition, they aim to attain that flawless rendition of a song, the immaculate assemblage of perfect brush strokes, or display total mastery of technique. For us, the very word “perfection” stirs up deep-seated emotions and cultivates clear mental images. Have you ever done anything perfectly? And more importantly, can you do it again?

The universe undoubtedly loves to produce novelty. The constant attainment of novelty is an anti-entropic driving force behind the progression of physics into chemistry, into biology, into human history, into you and also our technology. 

Long ago, plasma coalesced into hydrogen, then was converted into helium as it fueled the burning of stars which then exploded creating the heavier elements. These eventually formed the Earth with its rocks and oceans that somehow started living and have come together now for a short while to be you. 

You are the cutting edge of novelty in the universe with your unique blended genes and mutations in your DNA coupled with all the distinctive experiences that have conditioned you. There has never been anything like you before in this entire universe, and there never will be again. 

Everything you do and think is the newest thing that this whole ancient and infinitely complex process is doing here and now as it continues to move towards increased complexity and interconnectedness.

This trend replaces the old by morphing it into the new. Five-hundred million-year-old trilobites have gone the way of cassette tapes and iPhone 3s, existing today as obsolete fossils of life and technology. You are here today and your ancient ancestors aren’t. Nature is constantly evolving and producing novelty.

As an athlete, I have been hung up or obsessed with the frustrating notion of perfection for most of my career. Just last week I was again fixated and totally focused on perfecting my start. 

With each repetition I strived to recreate the memory of imagined perfection from the handful of times in my career when I believed that my dive was absolutely flawless and simply unbeatable. I kept comparing the subtle nuances of what is to what once was.

Everything we do is a product of who we are. While you have a name and an identity, who you are is really the sum total of your conditioning. Your conditioning is a collection of the ways in which you have reacted to and adapted to your environment in the past based on the hereditary attributes of your DNA such as being innately aggressive or conservative, etc. 

Your DNA is like your operating system and all of your experiences are akin to lines of code that have programmed you to better meet the imposed needs of your environment. It’s not easy to accept, but you are essentially a walking, very complex algorithm that learns and adapts; a nature-robot-talking ape. 

Everything that you ever did was simply a product of who you were at that point in time. You couldn’t have done anything differently, because that would not have been you based on your conditioning at that point in time. To realise this is incredibly liberating. 

As I practiced my dives, by trying to recreate imagined perfection, I was going against that novelty producing force that drives the universe. I was the butt of the ultimate cosmic joke. 

Those “perfect” dives were a product of who I was when I did them in the past. I would never be that same exact person ever again because as time goes on I am continually conditioned by new experiences. Essentially, new experiences, no matter how seemingly insignificant, make me a new person.

True perfection is dynamic. It’s an expression of full commitment from who we are at that moment in time, and is constantly changing as nature evolves us. Perfection today will be different from perfection yesterday, and will be a reflection of the best we can be at that moment in time. 

If I continued to hold to my notion of perfection as a memory from the past, true perfection would always seem imperfect by comparison, and I would never be able to recognise it for the beautiful novelty that it is. Perfection is like a bull’s eye on a dart board, and not a single point. The bull’s eye is a small circle, containing an infinite number of different points within it. 

The same exact point will never be hit twice. It’s this realisation that allows you to attain new perfection by liberating you from the known. 

In a novelty producing universe, new perfection is true perfection.

Find George on Twitter: @georgebovell

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