— Henry Miller
1891 - 1980
Do you strive to be perfect in your writing, your painting, or even your music? Perfection is a pursuit that plagues many people. Ever since Adam and Eve were tossed out of the Garden of Eden, human beings have sought to return to the land of perfection. As a child, I sought perfection at school, at church and in the home. I attempted to become perfect in the eyes of God.
In fourth grade, my teacher, Mrs. Windley, pulled another boy and myself aside and told us that we needed to be leaders on the playground. We needed to stop the other children who were misbehaving. I, of course, had no idea what she meant. Supposedly, because we behaved so well, she wanted us to influence the other children. I had no idea how to do that.
I have tried to write the perfect poem, the perfect short story, the perfect novel and failed miserably. Early in my career, I would spend hours and hours rewriting and revising. I usually reached a point in my revising where the words returned to what I had originally wrote. I had come full circle and I knew it was time to stop.
I read a story once of a Japanese haiku poet, who in his lifetime had written thousands of haiku. When he was dying, he destroyed all but three of his haiku. He felt the others were not good enough — were not perfect.
I have spent a lifetime struggling against the false god of perfection. I know I will never be perfect, but a part of me still seeks to reach it. The lesson I keep relearning is that it is okay to fail — to make mistakes, to be human. Failure is part of the human state.
In the American society, we put people on pedestals and make heroes out of them. They become our perfect idols. We worship them. And then when we discover that they are human, we vilify them. They have let us down. We condemn them. We do it to our sports heroes, our politicians, our artists. Nobody is perfect. Our heroes have clay feet. Our heroes will fail us.
Are you a perfectionist? Do you punish yourself for your failures? Do you judge yourself too harshly? Have you learned to forgive yourself? To accept your mistakes? To understand that it is okay to be human? To realize the Garden of Eden does not exist?
This week revisit some of your creative works that you consider to be failures and look at them through fresh eyes. Learn to accept it. Send it out into the world with all it flaws. Also, take time this week and forgive yourself for the mistakes that you have made. Accept the fact that you are human.
Henry Valentine Miller was the son of Heinrich Miller and Louise Marie Neiting. He was of Lutheran German descent. He was born and raised in New York City. He attend college for one semester.
Miller was married five times (talk about failure) and had three children. He worked for Western Union. He wrote his first novel that was never published at the age of 31. His second and third novels were not published until after his death. (More failure.)
|Henry Miller painting|
Miller moved back to New York in 1940 and then to California in 1942. In 1961 Tropic of Cancer was finally published in the United States by Grove Press. The publication led to a series of obscenity trials that tested the laws on pornography. The U. S. Supreme Court 1964 declared the book a work of literature. Eventually his books were all published in the U.S.
Miller also painted more than 2,000 watercolor paintings in his life. He was a friend of French painter, Gregoire Michonze.