Perfection Obsession

Woolworth Building Lobby

The concept of perfection is something many of us struggle with. The perfect complexion, the perfect relationship, the perfect life. And yet, we know so little about perfection. What is it like to be perfect? Who defines perfection? Is it attainable? We understand the concept but we don’t really know what it is. 

Neil Degrassi Tyson argues against “intelligent design.” He believes that intelligent, or dare I say perfect, design doesn’t exist because even our anatomical design is flawed: “There's like a sewage system and entertainment complex intermingling.” And yet, our mere existence in this world relies on billions of nanobacteria working correctly, consistently. Sounds like perfection?

When I think of perfect design, I think about architecture. I visited a new, glitzy coworking space the other day and couldn’t but start questioning its design when, after trying to open a door, the door handle ended up in my hand. Perfect design should mean that no screw in the whole construction would ever come unscrewed.

Woolworth building

A couple of weeks back, I also had the chance to visit the Woolworth Building in downtown Manhattan. Built in 1910, this building was the tallest skyscraper in the world for almost 20 years, until the Empire State came along. The building had a pioneering steel structure, as well as first-of-its-kind finishings, like a terracotta tile facade and a cathedral-looking lobby with gilded ceilings and mosaics. Not only was the structure innovative due to its lavish design, it was also used as a benchmark for the city’s building code after its completion. The building was not perfect, but it was a trailblazer. 

When I think of perfect design, I also think about “perfect” babies. The common notion is that a perfect baby has all ten fingers and ten toes. I think about the uncertainty that soon-to-be-parents experience of whether their child will have any health conditions that can stop or limit them from leading a “normal”, “perfect” life. Yet in the end, we know that even this will not guarantee a “perfect” life for the newborn baby as they will go on to face many other challenges.

To me this highlights the biggest frustration with perfection: the sad realization that it is not attainable. So when we think about perfect skin, perfect toes or perfect babies, remember that perfection might just be a concept and its up to you to define it. 

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