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Negative Views about Perfection & Perfectionism

Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem--in my opinion--to characterize our age.

    - Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born U.S. theoretical physicist. Out of My Later Years, ch. 14 (1950).

All of us failed to match our dreams of perfection. So I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure to do the impossible.

    - William Faulkner (1897-1962), U.S. novelist. Interview in Writers at Work (First Series, ed. by Malcolm Cowley, 1958), referring to Faulkner's writing contemporaries.

Our salvation is in striving to achieve what we know we'll never achieve.

    - Ryszard Kapuscinski (b. 1932), Polish journalist. A Warsaw Diary, in Granta, no. 15 (Cambridge, England, 1985).

Faultily faultless, icily regular, splendidly null, Dead perfection, no more.

    - Lord Tennyson (1809-92), English poet. Maud, pt. 1, sct. 2.

I have no faith in human perfectability. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active--not more happy--nor more wise, than he was 6000 years ago.

    - Edgar Allan Poe (1809-45), U.S. poet, critic, short-story writer. Letter, 2 July 1844, to poet and critic James Russell Lowell. Quoted in: Julian Symons, The Tell-Tale Heart: The Life and Works of Edgar Allan Poe, pt. 1, ch. 11 (1978).

No barber shaves so close but another finds his work.

    - English Proverb. Collected in: George Herbert, Outlandish Proverbs (1640).

No one ever approaches perfection except by stealth, and unknown to themselves.

    - William Hazlitt (1778-1830), English essayist. Sketches and Essays, "On Taste" (1839).

Perfection is a trifle dull. It is not the least of life's ironies that this, which we all aim at, is better not quite achieved.

    - W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), British author. The Summing Up, ch. 76 (1938).

Striving to better, oft we mar what's well.

    - William Shakespeare (1564-1616), English dramatist, poet. Albany, in King Lear, act 1, sc. 4.

The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection, that one is sometimes willing to commit sins for the sake of loyalty, that one does not push asceticism to the point where it makes friendly intercourse impossible, and that one is prepared in the end to be defeated and broken up by life, which is the inevitable price of fastening one's love upon other human individuals.

    - George Orwell (1903-50), British author. Shooting an Elephant, "Reflections on Gandhi" (1950).

The intellect of man is forced to choose Perfection of the life, or of the work, And if it take the second must refuse A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.

    - W. B. Yeats (1865-1939), Irish poet. The Choice.

"Finality is death. Perfection is finality. Nothing is perfect. There are lumps in it," said the Philosopher.

    - James Stephens (1882-1950), Irish poet, author. The Crock of Gold, ch. 4 (1912).

The cruellest thing a man can do to a woman is to portray her as perfection.

    - D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930), British author. Letter, 17 May 1913, to writer and critic Edward Garnett (published in The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, vol. 1, ed. by James T. Boulton, 1979).

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