20/01/2011

Imperfect, it’s the perfect way to be

Have you noticed a growing backlash against the idea of “perfection”? And a growing appreciation of the imperfect? A move towards hand-stitched, hand-turned, hand-made rather than mass-produced, machine-made? Lots of people on Tumblr stating “I am imperfect” or “my imperfections are what make me me” in their bios?

I thought at first it was just me who yearned for, let’s just call it ‘the human touch’ for now in goods and clothes as well as service. I thought I was being slightly odd in, for example, asking the man selling Christmas trees for an imperfect, “more natural-looking” tree. He was surprised, I guess most people want the most ‘perfect’-looking, idealized tree and the growers attempt to grow that kind of ‘perfect’ tree.

{He wanted to give me a destined-for-the-skip “reject” for free but I gave him £7.50 for it. Ironically, it was magnificent: the bushiest, straightest most idealized Christmas tree I’ve ever had!} Imagine how many trees were chipped as not perfect-enough to be offered for sale…?

I’ve been thinking about how the media and advertising has for decades attempted to persuade us that we should look for, and expect, perfection in all things – that we should indeed aspire to “perfection” – the ‘perfect’ recipe solution to your friends-for-lunch dilemma(!) – the ‘perfect’ sauce for pasta, the ‘perfect’ coat for a night out and so on.

The other side of this is that as consumers we’ve expected perfection in the things we buy – from perfectly-shaped vegetables to perfectly-finished clothes and household linens. We’d throw our arms up in horror if we paid big bucks for something only to find a tiny flaw. Why? Because we’ve bought-into the promise of perfection.

We’ve bought-into it so much that our expectations of everything from the things we buy to our own selves, our homes and the behavior of everyone around us are SKY-HIGH.

No wonder we are so often disappointed in life!

Moreover, manufacturers closing the vicious circle of create-desire-for-perfection-in-people by giving us perfectly-produced high street goods has also meant enormous sacrifices have been made by factory workers in poorer countries who, as you know are possibly children and definitely vulnerable members of society. Consider also the villages soaked in pesticides – pesticides used to protect crops so they are ‘perfect-looking’ and will therefore sell.

Supplying nothing but perfect items has meant shocking wastage – imperfect goods, including garments are thrown into landfill.

It should be acknowledged that some companies including one particular high street store do try to alleviate the waste issue by cutting their brand label off the garments they don’t feel are perfect enough to offer for sale under their brand, but which have passed through the manufacture quality control and transit processes, by donating these brand-new and usually only marred in tiny, unnoticeable ways to charity shops.

And now we’re becoming bored of perfect and longing for something more ‘real’ looking, the laws in the UK changed last year so that food producers are able to offer ‘imperfect’ shaped fruit and vegetables  through supermarkets as they used to do, and have continued to do at farmers markets and such-like, rather than get dumped because they don’t look like an idealized notion of what perfect fruit and vegetables should look like.

As consumers demanding and expecting perfection, we’re funding and perpetuating a system that is on is knees trying to produce perfection and in doing so having to cut corners in all kinds of saddening ways to bring that perfection to us; in costs/cheap labor (making up for the waste of imperfect items not being put up for sale) through to investing in new technologies in an attempt to create a completely, laughably unnatural state of ‘perfection’.

I’ve even noticed people selling handmade goods attempting to make them look perfect, like they were made in a factory. WTF? This is a completely upside-down idea! We would feel much better embracing our own handwork than attempting to replicate a human-less factory look.

I think this system is going to implode. Such levels of perfection at such cost to fulfil an empty promise of perfect is not sustainable.

What really bothers me though is this sinister idea that perfection is a good thing and that everything, including us, might want to aspire to being perfect. The inference throughout western society is that we strive to be ‘perfect’.

No wonder plastic surgery is on the increase, no wonder so many people feel they are falling short of the mark; physically, emotionally, mentally. With our society actively providing so much ‘perfection’ and creating a sense that this perfection is in some way normal – and with so little tolerance of human mistakes – no wonder we feel a sense of not-good-enough followed through with a lack of self-confidence, self-value and self-love.

Being imperfect is being honest-to-goodness natural. Imperfection is beautiful, it’s human, it’s also divine. In fact, it’s the perfect way to be.

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28/05/2010

Start living your authentic life —-> Why be a Lorax when you can be YOU?

Am warning you now, I may be a bit rambly in this post. I know I should be single-minded. Alas, I am taken today with the idea of becoming more folk tale-ish (sorry).

So if you’re not into that right now, just skip to the video I’ve managed to successfully embed at the end of this post, sit back and experience your own, personal life-changing event.

I saw this film, “The Story of Stuff” presented by Annie Leonard, on Jonathan Fields’ blog just the other day and it has had a huge impact on me.

I knew all the stuff Ms Leonard spoke about but watching her present this information on STUFF has crystallized my thoughts and mobilized me in the same way another film did when I was a teenager.

For many years as a child I had “boked” as we say in Scotland, which means gagging on food or vomiting when I asked what this food was on my plate and my mum replied, lamb or beef or any other kind of meat.

I hated the idea of eating animal friends (remember I was 10-13 years old, also I was an only child in a menagerie of pets) but everyone I knew ate animals so what other choice was there?

Then I happened to see a private screening of The Animals Film. And that was it. I became vegetarian and still am a hundred years later.

Similarly, I’ve recently been feeling a strange sense of disconnect with how things are going in our society. So many things just didn’t seem ‘right’ or natural. Why were people so unhappy? Why did so many people not care about their environment or each other?

Why did some people stone ducks to death at one end of a park while in the same park not far away, other people were feeding them? (I have witnessed this particular example of the dichotomy of humankind).

Then I re-read The Lorax by Dr Seuss. Why have we all learned so little in the last 30 plus years? Written in 1971 by the visionary Theodore Seuss Geisel (his real name) it’s a clear warning for future generations and yet have we heeded it?

While many of us have understood its premise, resonated with the desire to care for our wildlife and wilderness, treasure nature and our natural biodiversity, and have felt moved by Dr Seuss’ plea, we have run around like Cassandra Loraxes.

We’ve identified with the powerlessness of the Lorax, rather than the direct “YOU” of the character Dr Seuss wanted us to relate to.

Enter Annie Leonard. (Thank God.) Ms Leonard has done something grand to alleviate our powerlessness. She is fully equipped with the facts, the evidence and the passion to help us all. She explains things clearly to us, with simple diagrams and straight-forward narrative in “The Story of Stuff”.

She is the YOU of The Lorax. She took the Truffula Seed idea and did something huge with it. She planted it in a film. I suspect that if Ms Leonard read The Lorax and its last page:

“SO…

Catch!” calls the Once-ler.

He lets something fall.

“It’s a Truffula Seed.

It’s the last one of all!

You’re in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds.

And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.

Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care.

Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.

Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.

Then the Lorax

and all of his friends

may come back.”

she decided to take up that responsibility. And by God has she ever.

So thank you Dr Seuss and Annie Leonard. I will be a Lorax no longer and simply be ME.

I too am shifting from feeling powerless to taking the steps to disentangle myself and my family from the unnatural, unsustainable, unholy threads that tie us to big corporation’s stranglehold on our planet. I realize I’ve been doing it for a while.

Tomorrow I’ll share some practical and simple new ways you can not only reverse the cycle of Stuff in your life but simultaneously liberate your inner wild man / inner wild woman.

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