Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Rethinking Christmas 


A couple of friends invited me to their kids’ Christmas concerts recently. The prospect of a night of oohing and aahing parents, grandparents and the like did not fill my heart with the glee and gladness of the season. However, in an effort to practice politeness (a challenge for me), I said yes to both offers.

The night of the first event came. I made sure to do a few breathing exercises to prepare me for having to feign smiles and give weak applause all night. Walking into the huge hall, I was surprised at how professionally decorated it was. A few hundred people, all sharply dressed, waited in great anticipation of seeing their particular Johnny perform.

The lights went down and the concert began. Child after child marched on stage, each taking their proper place, quietly awaiting their cue. And when it came, beautiful voices chimed together in epic unison. A chorus of angels. Pure perfection. And that is how the whole night went, each child doing exactly as laid out, with a sunny disposition. Children of the Stepford Wives?

When it came time for concert number two, I was even less enthused than the first time around. I contemplated bringing an iPod, a book, a hip flask. I reminded myself that I was practicing politeness, and so grudgingly went without.

This time, the venue was much smaller and there were only a few dozen folks. It was an older building without any sparkle or glitz, or even a way to dim the lights for effect.

The concert started. One of the kids held the mic, turned to his friend and asked, “Is this thing on?” The audience chuckled- oh yes, it was working just fine. I admit, even my stoic gaze lightened up.

The adult leading the show nodded and refocused the children. Within a few minutes it was apparent that she had a tremendous job on her hands- one kid constantly played with the buttons on his shirt, another wandered off the stage, while still another insisted on being in front. A couple tried to out-sing each other while another girl chewed on her hair.

That night I discovered first-hand where the internet acronym ROTFL (rolling on the floor laughing) came from. My stomach hurt from the convulsions I threw it into. I was far more entertained than I could have been at any Broadway performance.  

That night, too, I discovered that true perfection is actually imperfection.

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

In Control

Every muscle in her body tenses. Her shoulders crowd out her neck, torso maintains high alert. She tries to carry an air of nonchalance, moving slowly, as if to pace herself.

I want to tell her to relax, chill, loosen up, but I can’t. She has me gripped by the throat with her iron stare, words cannot escape.

This is how she needs things to be, squeezes the life out of everything so it becomes quiet, and still, and has no power to bother her.

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Filed under Creativity, Writing

25 responses to “(Im)Perfection

  1. I love amateur Christmas concerts for all the reasons you describe. I think the most perfect part of this kind of experience is watching and supporting the risk of creativity and expression – and it’s even more perfect when it is young children. Merry Christmas.

  2. Interesting indeed, Zoe. And I feel great, because I am about as imperfect as they come.
    Imperfection makes us feel comfortable: and perfection is not funny. It must be part of our human condition to be able to appreciate the flawless (Scarlett Johanssen comes to mind unbidden) but to feel more at home with the Sandra Bullocks of this world.

  3. I myself am a veteran of many a Christmas concert, impromptu skit put on by my three daughters, and worst of all, the school band concert. (Is that the end of a movement or the end of a piece? Should I clap now? How long does this go on?) I had not considered a “hip flask”. That might have helped. But you are absolutely right, some of the best laughter on earth has come from the imperfection of piano concerts and other children’s programs. Thanks for reminding me of some great laughs.

  4. As I read your excellent post, I felt as though I were sitting next to you attending those events, many of which I’ve attended in the past, all of which resembled the second one.

    The spontaneity of a child is more entertaining than any perfectly orchestrated performance. You said it well. I will never forget the choir of little ones in our church years ago. There were about twenty young children from ages 4 to 8. One of them was the pastor’s grandson. Everyone loved this little boy, and he wasn’t a bit self conscious. All the children except him were poised and sang with enthusiasm. The pastor’s grandson, however, shifted back and forth, tugged on his underwear, and picked his nose, singing a few notes here and there while swaying outside the rhythm of the song. He was a few years younger than the others, so it wasn’t a bad thing, but rather the most entertaining part of the entire program.

    Blessings to you, Zoe, for politely accepting those invitations. You are a trooper.

  5. This year, we attended 2 nights of the exact…same…concert. Our two older boys are twins, and were performing on separate nights. The only thing that made the second night bearable was the little, unexpected, funny moments when things went wrong. And, of course, the performances of our children. 😉

    • Now there’s a thought that can be applied to everyday life: look for those “little, unexpected, funny moments” when you’re bored of the same-old same-old. I’m sure they’re all around. More blog post material…
      Merry Christmas.

  6. Your concert-going experience made me laugh out loud 🙂 – iPod, a book and a hip flask – I empathise!

    • Thanks for the empathy. Glad you got a laugh too.
      I have a hard time sitting still just watching something- each of those three items has been a help at different points in my ‘passively sitting and staring’ experiences.

  7. Attempting to control others tends to be an exercise in futility . . . unless we’re armed with a hip flask, when the futility of our efforts becomes amusing.

    Glad you enjoyed the concerts.

    • Don’t we all try to control others in some way or another? I have a lot to learn on this front myself!

    • Not all. But certainly the vast majority. 😉

      We tell people they’re selfish when they don’t do what WE want them to do. We use fear and guilt to manipulate the masses into conformity. We use “love” (and the withholding of “love”) to steer people in the direction we want to see them flow. Etc.

      When we stop judging and manipulating others, and begin to practice acceptance . . . the need for the “hip flask” often falls away of its own accord.

      They. Just. Are.

      When we accept who we are ~ we accept who “they” are.

  8. V

    I think this is why attending a church service where everything is calculated to the minute repels me.

  9. Sometimes when we don’t expect it, we are entertained far more than any TV show or theatre production.
    Sounds like a couple of really cool concerts.
    Excellent poem too.
    Very relevant

  10. Chloe

    Those are the best moments in life, when we laugh so hard that our stomach hurts, or tears roll down our face 😀

    I love your words ” true perfection is actually imperfection.” xx

    • I’ve had a few of those moments when I shouldn’t have had them as well- like in the middle of a solemn, quiet service. There I was, in a fit of uncontrollable laughter. Or sitting on a bus by myself with a hilarious thought in my head spilling out into laughter. The harder I tried to stop the more laughter erupted. Still, I’ll take those moments whenever I can get them, even if I shouldn’t.

      • Chloe

        Exactly!!! I can picture you sat alone on a bus erupting in to laughter…it just boils away until it spills over! Fantastic moments – lol xx

  11. As they say about golf, the Doc biz ain’t a game of perfect, and we have very little control. The trick is to try to confine your mistakes to those of no significant consequence, do no harm, and have genuine sorrow for any errors you make.

    As far as music (and art in general) I always told my children, “Music ain’t a matter of life and death, it’s a whole lot more important than that.”

    Dr. B

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