An unwavering March

Saturday, March 31, 2018 2 Permalink 2

Some of you no doubt thought, as spring approached, that it is certainly a mercy that he has had over a year to exhaust his infatuation with the micro-lens.

But it’s not done yet. In fact the blossoms are just arriving!

Behold the up-close imperfection of “perfect” Nature.

The closer you look, the less beautiful superficial beauty becomes. Apparent regularities in symmetry and form and color break down into irregularity and even chaos, and yet sometimes our sense of awe and surprise increases at the same time.

I take great comfort in the consistent horrors of deep magnification. They escape the notice of the naked eye much like a man or woman invariably looks prettier at 100 paces. We are hardwired for our desire to give every possible benefit of the doubt to the unknown.

And then we continue against reason, experience, and probability to assume the best possible pleasing traits through 80 paces, and 60 paces, as we approach closer, but by 40 and 20 and 10 paces, 99% of the time we discover our wanton illusion.

Often the actual touchdown is downright depressing, that we have been so wrong yet again. And even in that 1% material success rate, we find ourselves having to explore another kind of blindness inside which works on the same principle:

What were you thinking?!?!?
I was thinking she was cute.

This predictable function of not insisting on close inspection for an initial romantic investment is the origin of that horrible but indelible phrasing from my youthful dandy days in New York: He or she is a “50-yarder,” or “20-Yarder,” etc., so offensive in part because we all know exactly what it means. Facebook was born from that same deplorable impulse that most of us nevertheless share at some biological level.

None of us would be here if our fathers and mothers had not given the benefit of the doubt at 100 paces first, and then stuck with it through the long walk toward imperfection.

That is how initial attraction works. It plays on the outside odds, and always in the macro.

A friend in college who wore coke-bottle thick glasses chose often not to wear them. I thought it was from vanity, and put it to her one night as she was fumbling blindly through a rowdy party.

But she set me straight: “On no! It’s that when I put on my glasses, the devastating clarity shatters all my lovely illusions. There are cracks in sidewalks, dust on mantles, dandruff – It’s awful. People are actually hideous close-up. So is food. I very much prefer the world in a forgiving soft focus. It’s worth the inconvenience to keep it that way, to keep those details at bay, especially on a night like this, that needs the extra magic.”

In a sense, she had built-in beer-goggles.

It is true, if we did have perfect vision all the way to the atomic core of things from the start, we could not believe in any of our greater ideals. A daisy, both literal and metaphorical, is always far from radial symmetry, and scaly insects are everywhere (we hope) lurking.

What we perceive as perfection, especially in the garden, is in fact a haphazard microscopic war mired in sap and caked with hairy pollen. Leaves are splattered with mud and shot through with hail. Flowers contain slimy slugs and are always in the process of decaying and falling apart.

Nothing up close passes Platonic muster, yet this is the raw material that rolls up into beauty, or at least enough beauty to ensure the continuation of life.

Zooming out to panorama, taken all together, it’s stunning, and each disfigured element has played a part in that impeccable whole.

There is an article of faith in that somewhere, one which mirrors our own status as rather clunky and halting creatures: that despite our myriad imperfections, we are probably plodding along just fine in the larger picture.

We are perfect enough to get the job done.