Optimalism vs. Perfectionism

Bob Dylan and The Band touring in Chicago, 197...

Image via Wikipedia


This is an afterthought related to my brief piece on ‘patterns’, yesterday. A while ago, I woke up at 7 AM, the usual time. I made coffee and put on my TV set, to see a bit of the German ‘Morgen-Magazin’, an early morning news and current affairs programme; easy on the eye and ear, an informative, funny, and thankfully commercial-free breakfast show. They always have a band or artist to do a new song. This time it was a funny troupe, unconventional; they played, as the British say, in a ramshackle, shambolic manner – but that was precisely their forte. Every tiny bit and piece fell in the right place just in time, but only just. That is the type of brilliance Bob Dylan can excel at (he and his former accompanying group The Band are pictured above).

After the performance, the female presenter inquired how they had reached their own brand of perfectionism. The bass player replied: ‘oh, but we don’t aim at perfection. It’s something clinical and unimpressive, if it exists at all. I call our effort: ‘optimalism’, the best you can do under the circumstances given.’

I am sure that I never will forget this simple yet perfect (darn…) answer. And I hope that I will be able to implement it in my life a bit more every day.

Even the best scientific articles on OCD are imperfect. One can comment on small language errors, overlooked by the copy editors. Or on forgotten citations. Or on several instances of self-repeat. Or on the rather stiff use of language that calls for time-consuming re-reading of a couple of paragraphs.

‘s Funny: I realised a few days ago that there was a gigantic contradiction in my personality that I had never seen for what it was. I already noted that science can, in my humble opinion, never be complete, in the sense that there will be an explanation of the universe that has zero holes in it (and I don’t mean the black ones). There will always be ‘inexplicables’. The concept of a complete description is self-defeating.

And then I was contemplating my own many and fruitless attempts at being absolutely certain, about being perfect (remember the obsession with ‘starting all over’, e.g. with a review article that I abandoned halfway through).

So I thought the one thing, but did the other. I am convinced that this contradiction has brought me many bad times, and many tears. And I hope that with this insight I will be able to improve my quality of life.

I find ‘optimalism’ such a nice and human word. It expresses the unnecessary nature of fear of failure, and it says about the following photo: ‘nice, but it surely doesn’t have to be this way always’:


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