A Little Happier: Sometimes, Flawed Can Be More Perfect Than Perfection.

I read this wonderful story in the fascinating book Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom.

Nordstrom was an extraordinarily brilliant and influential editor of children’s books, and here, she makes an important point about how sometimes, flawed can be more perfect than perfection. When reading that picture, book children will enjoy noticing that in one illustration, the octopus has only seven tentacles.

It can be a lot of fun to point out mistakes — something I remind myself when people seem to take such great pleasure in pointing out my mistakes to me.

The beautiful portrait above of Nordstrom was painted by Maurice Sendak, whom she discovered and published.

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  • Gretchen Baer

    Flawed can be more perfect than perfection! I read recently about Navajo weavers who deliberately weave an imperfection into the corner of the rug. It’s where the Spirit moves in and out of the rug. A weaver said, “The traditional teaching of the Navajo weaving is that you have to put a mistake in there. It must be done because only the creator is perfect. We’re not perfect, so we don’t make a perfect rug.”

  • Mimi Gregor

    Perfection cannot exist. If something were absolutely perfect, it would, in time, become boring. If it is boring, it is not perfect. Ergo, perfection cannot exist. QED.

    It’s true that flaws can be just the thing that makes something beautiful. In home furnishings, I find matchy-matchy rooms boring and dated. But a wabi-sabi look (what is commonly called “shabby chic”) grabs the attention and requires a bit of creativity to pull off. It also has a more comfortable feel to it. In the same way, it is the flaw that makes a person aesthetically beautiful. When someone tries to look perfectly proportional (which can only be done with copious amounts of plastic surgery and makeup), they look plastic. But add some tiny flaw — a large-ish nose, hooded eyes, a mole, or a gap-toothed smile — and it humanizes them, making them more approachable and seemingly beautiful.

  • Le Genou de Claire

    Isn’t this somewhat of a well-known/used technique of teachers of young children? I know my son’s preschool teacher use this technique all the time: she’d intentionally make a mistake to see if children are paying attention, AND children usually are proud to have noticed the mistake, AND it makes learning fun. My son’s swimming teacher use this technique all the time, so is my son’s violin teacher (which I often copy, to varying degree). It does make learning fun & break up the tension/monotony of being perfect all the time (both children & teachers).