Saturday, April 01, 2006


Periodically in the past I have contemplated why it is that people cannot be perfect. Why CAN'T we do everything correctly? So I have begun drafting a list of reasons why. Here is my admittedly incomplete list so far.

People Can't Be Perfect Because ...
1) Lack of Time
There are many demands on people's time and the time required to do a task perfectly means inevitably that another task cannot be done perfectly.
2) Lack of Knowledge
Some tasks require more knowledge than is readily available. Sometimes this lack of knowledge relates to time, i.e., if I had more time, I could get the knowledge required to do the task perfectly; sometimes it doesn't, e.g., I can't talk to a student's dead grandparent about their relationship - that information is simply unavailable. Sometimes the information doesn't even exist, e.g., research hasn't yet shown us the best way to remedy certain problems.
3) Lack of Will
Sometimes there is no desire for perfection. I could make my bed perfectly every day. It doesn't take long; I know how; I even know it looks better; but it just isn't that important to me.
4) Competing Desires
I would love to lose weight - a lot of weight. But I also love good food and I hate being hungry. But, even though I eat nutritious food and I exercise regularly, I must eat too much, because I still weigh too much.
5) Lack of Ability to Empathize
This relates to Lack of Knowledge, but is slightly different. I may know about a student's problems at home, but I may never have experienced anything closely related, so while I could potentially recite all of the facts of the case, I have never, for example, lived in a foster home, so I don't really know how it FEELS.
6) Lack of Understanding
This relates to Lack of Knowledge, too, but is again slightly different. I may know about a student's problems at home, and I may have experienced something very close to that type of problem. So, while I have the knowledge needed and I can approximate the feelings, I may not have the understanding I need of how the various factors differ or interact. This may also happen in the purely scientific arena: I may have the facts about a scientific problem, but I may not yet understand their individual, relative, and cumulative importance.
7) Chance
I am not sure yet if this should be included. It seems to me that it should be, but I can't think right now of a situation in which I have done everything else perfectly, but the result was less than perfection, due to chance. Maybe this: I left in plenty of time to get to a job on time, I drove fine, but there was an accident blocking my normal driving route, so I ended up late. I am not convinced that I shouldn't blame that on something else, though, e.g., if I had more time, I could leave early enough so that traffic accidents wouldn't be a problem.
8) Conflicting Definitions of Perfection
I may cook what I consider a delicious dinner - hot and spicy squid with vegetables, but my husband hates hot things, all spices, and squid, so perfection is unattainable. If I want a perfect dinner for me, I have been perfect; but if I want to cook "the" perfect dinner, there is no such thing, since my husband and I don't agree on the definition of perfection in this case.

I suppose there are other reasons, but this is a start.

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