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Perfect, More Perfect, Most Perfect
May 12, 2003

Perfection exists, but not in mankind. Men, women and children are miracles, but, alas, they are not perfect. Perfection happens, dear friends, it is not by our doing. I hear a songbird outside my window and his sounds are incredibly clear and true, his repertoire a majestic spontaneous score without affect or fault. He perfectly sings his perfect song. A flower opens its pedals in unseen and silent splendor; its fragrance spreads with the light of the early morning sun, no one to influence its perfect being. There is none among us who views the power of towering mountains raging with deathly shadows and crevices yielding to the tender embrace of billowing heaven-white clouds of cotton who can improve one bit upon their joined presence. Perfection is supernatural.

A thing aware of itself cannot achieve perfection. If nothing else, pride precludes it from gaining the flawless state. Perfection is not for us.

Achieving perfection is a troublesome mission, a paradox, a futility and, perhaps, a lost cause. None of us will ever know the grinning rogue dressed in fine lamb’s wool, and in the wake of the undertaking we only become intimate with who and what we are not. How far from the subject can we get? Follow the clever dancer from a distance and observe his fancy footwork, but don’t think you can duplicate the artiste de excellence. His steps are far too swift and right.

Now that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for the faultless excellence, while settling for extraordinary or stupendous, amazing or basic fantastic instead. We must simply keep things in perspective, accept reality, exercise humility and behead the monsters of greed, power and self-centeredness. As for me, I am sufficiently busy and content doing my gracious best -- times two or three.

About the quest -- seeking perfection -- there are pros and cons. Some say of the ambitious venture it disables, stresses, discourages, depresses and defeats. The insatiable hunt interferes with and interrupts one’s happy life. I can hear you now, “Oh boy, this is for me; misery is right up my alley. Any promise of diarrhea or severe skin rash?”

We try so hard to improve we wear ourselves out. Nothing we do is enough and we get indigestion. Our mistakes are more evident to us than our successes and we experience limp-shouldered self-doubt and dark-countenance insecurity. Achievement becomes obsessive and activities not directly related to the ever-retreating cause seem trivial, wasteful and irresponsible. We can’t sleep. Time off, entertainment and relaxation are off-limits -- we can’t bear the guilt, or is it the fear, of letting up.

It becomes evident that perfection and the act of pursuing it are obtuse. They paralyze. Crossed eyes and one’s tongue hanging out the side of one’s mouth -- the drool on the chin, the tick in the right temple and the muted yammering -- are hardly expressions of triumph. Rather than approach the darling quality, the distance increases. The frustration is numbing.

Proponents of the grind see it as a heady lifestyle, challenge-concentrated and energizing. They are a merrily driven mob that takes two steps forward, trips on its backside, bounces and thinks it’s fun. They get up. They get ahead. Seeking perfection does that for the resilient, non-introspective flesh beaters. Try this and if it doesn’t work, try that and if that doesn’t work, try something else. Exactly, precisely, absolutely, right on and totally awesome are the colors of their rainbow at the end of which is perfection.

And where do we fit in, cool musclemakers and weightlifters that we are, strugglers and challengers, seekers and strivers and protein-consuming flesh beaters? We track the beast, have no thought of capturing it and are content. We push, press and relax. Lift, curl and rest. Tug, contract and repair. Hit a set, miss a rep and grow. Ache, fight and persist. Rip, tear and persevere. When hungry, we consume large portions of protein, no sugar and a little cream… and it’s back to the venture with passion.

To bolt on muscle, shear off fat and charge the body with power, we must have our heads screwed on right. Try too hard and expect too much and the adventure is short-lived. Deliberate effort accompanied by moans and groans is required to direct our steps to the gym. It becomes an ugly place where we squander time, evidently, and inflict pain upon our selves with little evidence of advancement and plenty of failure.

Should we set goals that are too ambitious and far beyond our reach, we will flail as we fail. Our ambition is removed and our reach shortened. Exercise, should it survive, becomes a perfunctory procedure at best to keep the buzzards off our back.

Nuts to the birds. Grasp each day and every workout as if it were your first and last --attitude leads the way and you are getting close, very close. You don’t find perfection, but you unearth the gold-hinged hope chest in which it is contained. There are sunrises and sunsets in your training, mountain lake shorelines in autumn colors, warm embraces and sweet kisses, the roar of a Harley and the call of the wild. It’s all there within the workout, the exercise, the movement, the action. Honey-soaked pain and drum-rhythms of strain, sweet sighs of hard work and breathe songs of relief; they unite to arouse the senses.

The gym, your training site, is (or should be) your refuge, a place of encouragement and fulfillment. The gym is where you go to find release, to call out your name at the top of your lungs, to wag your tail, to lick your wounds, to make things happen or to withdraw into your quiet and peaceful turtle shell. Physical pain quenches the emotional pain, physical movement, flowing and steady, eliminates disorder and restores balance, physical power exerted relentlessly charges the body with might, physical action establishes readiness and alertness and physical awareness promotes long life and love.

Here’s we’re some of us go wrong. We count the sets, we count the reps, we count the days, hours and seconds. We count calories and grams of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. We weigh ourselves and take measurements. We stare in the mirror, assess and criticize and wonder. We read, seek advice, listen and compare notes. We become impatient, disappointed and doubtful. We despair. Why does it take so long… been six weeks… is anything happening? I don’t look like her… she’s, like, perfect… will I ever look like her? What is the perfect formula for me, the ideal scheme, to achieve excellence? I thought I would feel better… I feel worse… I’m a toad. Why bother? I give up! Shoot me.

In a very real sense we find ourselves obsessing over perfection, or rather that version of the enchantment we have created for ourselves: The 400-pound bench and 18-inch arms or small waist and cellulite-free legs. They are representative of inspiring goals, but become agents of impossible perfection in the translation and acquisition. Time, and the obstacles it provides in our quest, is exasperating; the day-to-day metamorphous is undetectable; our eye undiscerning and the schemes of attainment are not trusted.

Seek perfection if you must, yet welcome its warm-hearted kin: daily progress, forward motion, sufficient advancement and considerable improvement.

Train hard, and don’t accept its illegitimate siblings: second best, hardly noticeable, so so, runner-up, better than nothing and not nearly good enough.

Never quit, and chase away the haunting, wretched demons: couldn’t be worse, rotten and miserable, so bad I wanna die and it’s the pits.

Gold we sought and fool’s gold we gathered; jewels in fine settings appeared in our reach and, instead, dull rhinestones we grasped in our callused palms. The castle of our eye became a tent in the desert, the mansion a shed among the thicket, the palace a shelter of rocks formed on craggy foothills.

Perfection may be dreamed of, hoped for, reached for and sought after. It can be imagined, imitated, pretended, poorly masqueraded and foolishly impersonated. It cannot be acquired. Knock yourself out.

The closest thing to perfection for you and me is soaring freely, flying high with no limits and a three-point landing after another successful training mission.

Perfection is divine. God’s speed, Bombers… DD


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