(Im)perfection

A recent post by nature photographer Ed Lehming sparked comments about perfection: Did a blemish on the stem of an otherwise “perfect” lily somehow diminish it?

There is a tradition among Tibetan Buddhists called beginner’s mind in which meditation practitioners attempt to view the world free of preconceptions and judgements, to see things as if for the first time. To see the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Beginner’s mind frees us of expectations — and what is perfection if not an expectation?

It is also a sharp sword. Our world — and our lives — are in constant flux. So how can the definition of perfection possibly remain unchanged?

Photographer Viktor Rakmil posted two slightly different photos of the same bird on his blog and asked viewers which they thought was “best.” Which got me thinking: do we make choices based on some immutable criteria or on our own limited perceptions?

Perfection is illusive. Do we buy Canon or Nikon? (Or maybe Sony?) DSLR or point-and-shoot? Do we use a tripod or not? Full sun or shadow or backlighting? Macro lens or extension tubes?

Perfection is poor food. As we dine on indecision and frustration, procrastination joins us at the table.

The saguaro cactus is an icon of the Sonoran Desert. It’s often pictured as a tall beacon, 2 or 3 arms stretching gracefully upward, silhouetted against the sky. But who decided that’s what a saguaro should look like?

Saguaros show us just how messy life is. Cut, chopped, bruised, beaten, eaten, shot at — that’s the reality of desert life for this cactus. I’d rather capture the saguaro’s diversity than search for someone else’s definition of what it should look like.

And so it goes. We can choose bland sameness — in our photos, our words, our lives — or we can search for richness, reflecting our own impressions to the world.


Saguaro cactus   Carnegiea gigantea