Realism, Idealism, and the Glow After the Lights are Out

A little while back I sat down at the end of the day and I thought, “Today was kind of perfect.” It was sunny and I had a new book to read and I’d just spent the day at two of my favorite places ever, and all of those things just kind of came together, tied up into a single practically perfect day. It’s not a thought that I have often. I mean, there are plenty of moments in which I believe myself to be perfectly happy, but the long, slow-burning glow that comes at the end of a day that was as close to perfect as I could ever wish for is a rare feeling.

The thing is, though, I don’t actually believe in perfect days.

I am an idealist, but I am also a realist. The two are opposites, I know, but no matter how much I want to believe that things could maybe–maybe–consistently be some kind of perfect, I believe that perfect cannot be manufactured. Perfect is spontaneous and sparkling, a thing realized rather than pursued.

There is no list of boxes that people can check off to have a perfect day, or else we would do that every day. And if we could do that, perfection would lose its value–it would cease to be elusive and simply become ordinary.

Special things are special because they are rare. I know that’s kind of obvious, but because it’s so difficult to consciously make something be special, the things that just happen to be special are that much more valuable. We remember the special things because they don’t come around as frequently as we would wish. Like Marlow in Heart of Darkness said, “we live in the flicker.” We live in the in-between space where the memories of perfect things collide with the present, and that space is lit by the afterglow of the perfectly perfect things that we come across, like the flare of a just-switched-off light bulb. 

That sounded really cheesy. But the idea of perfection is kind of cheesy, because something that seems perfect right now might seem stupid in five days or months or years. Perfection has an expiration date. The things I wrote when I was in eighth grade seemed perfect then, but they definitely don’t anymore (example: “His girlfriend is a mix between a preppy cheerleader and a Basset Hound.”).

Perfection is subjective, just like everything else, and really, the collision of good and happy and beautiful can happen in so many different places that it almost seems as if there are countless pockets of perfection in the world, just waiting to be stumbled upon. And in turn, that makes life so much more interesting, because with every morning comes the possibility of a perfect day. Like Gatsby and the green light, we pursue perfection relentlessly; it is purpose and direction and satisfaction, and one fine morning–

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One thought on “Realism, Idealism, and the Glow After the Lights are Out

  1. Yeah okay so I love this blog so much.

    “Perfect is spontaneous and sparkling, a thing realized rather than pursued.” This is the truth.

    I love the idea of looking for pockets of perfection. It kind of reminds me of photons. We really do live in the flicker though. We have no control over when the light switch goes on and off, so the best we can really do is savor the moments when it’s on. And if the lights were on all of the time, we wouldn’t appreciate them as much as we do. That’s like the oldest and most cliche metaphor of all time, and while I try to limit my cliche use, they do exist for a reason. Cuz they totally make sense…

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