The Perfect Village

Once upon a time there was a village of people who wanted the best of everything. They decided to become the Servants of Perfection, and devote their lives to getting as close to perfection as possible and staying there.

Only the best craftsmen were allowed to practice, only the best farmers allowed to grow, only the best musicians allowed to play. And they had very fine goods and food and music, and they rid themselves of everything they could not do perfectly, and they enjoyed this near-perfect life, each generation teaching the next its perfect ways, for several hundred years.

Any strangers who agreed to their contract of perfection were welcomed into the community, and those who disagreed were shunned, and so the village stayed very much the same, and reasonably isolated, until one day, they noticed that the flood of tourists had slowed to a trickle, and that the strangers coming in did not seem as impressed with all of the perfection; in fact, they seemed disgusted with the food and bored with the music and they laughed about the crudeness of the craftsmanship.

The perfect fruit and vegetables, inbred only with themselves, with no variation to keep the population healthy and complex, had grown over the years flavorless, simple, and riddled with disease. The subsequent generations of craftsmen, attempting to live up to the perfection of their predecessors, had failed to develop new methods and ideas as the other villages had, and their creations were crude and basic in comparison, though perfectly executed. The musicians all played similar compositions, having learned the same perfect tunes from childhood, and they had all carefully guarded their own imperfect melodies, never sufficiently satisfied to share their attempts publicly. While music in the world around them had evolved and proliferated and thrived, theirs all sounded the same.

You would think at this point the perfect villagers would change their ways. But the virtue of perfection had been handed down to them over the generations, and they were used to their flavorless produce, to the point that other flavors seemed too aggressive and intense, and they were comforted by the familiar shape of their furniture and buildings, and they had grown used to hearing the same songs over and over and over again.

Only through imperfection can perfection be attained.

We have a strange tendency as humans to treat ideas as though they have the same permanence as objects. We treat “normal” as though a reliable baseline exist, instead of a constantly shifting median. We treat “perfect” as though it conforms to a universally agreed upon set of standards, when perfection has everything to do with circumstantial needs, tastes, and desires. We treat “ethical” as though the spider and the fly can agree upon the definition of “murder”–as though the spider’s brute ability to override the fly’s desires is rather reasonable and fair.