A Facebook friend of mine has a really big camera. He took it to Italy and posted a picture that he took of a second story window. Imagine this; on crowded cobblestone street, he has set up his tripod and the camera, which is about the size of a microwave oven. It has bellows and takes pictures on sheets of film that are as big as a paperback book. It has a special feature that allows you to raise the lens to correct for the natural tendency of buildings to go all pointy at the top when you look up. The parallel lines in my friend’s photo of a crumbling Italian building, did not converge. In fact, I noticed the window frame having longer lines at the top than on the bottom. In correcting one thing, he had undone another.
This is the nature of human existence. We labor to make things perfect, only to have something we weren’t controlling rise up to bite us in the ass. We identify with the mythical Tantalus, who was endlessly in pursuit of a pool water, only to have it slip away when he reached for it. Often, our desire for perfection keeps us finishing projects. In the film “Six Degrees of Separation,” a kindergarten teacher is asked why her kids produce artwork that is more beautiful than the neighboring classroom. She replies, “I know when the piece is done and I take it away from them.”
Often our desire for perfection ruins the relationships we need to develop in order to have teamwork and synergy in the church. Perfectionists are often late to meetings, unwilling to leave things half-finished on their desks. Perfectionists jump in to finish other people’s projects and sentences. Perfectionists have a way of making tomorrow’s gourmet meal ruin the opportunity to give bread to the needy today.
The real question, though, is my friend’s Facebook photo worth the effort he put into it? I think it is a great photo — but, not because he got it perfect — because his eye saw it and his heart was willing to sit with it for a while until he could communicate what he saw.