The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good

"Elijah in the Wadi" by Craig R Harris. Photo by Candy Kuehn (c) 2016

“Elijah in the Wadi” by Craig R Harris. Photo by Candy Kuehn (c) 2016



A close friend recently reminded me of the aphorism “the perfect is the enemy of the good” when I was lamenting about how I have been struggling to get various projects out into the world, or even to write more frequently about my activities on the blog and the website. I’m sure that some of my problem with this is deeply engrained in my energy patterns, and that this natural tendency is exacerbated significantly by many years of studying the masterworks of the classical music repertoire. We would closely examine works of the masters throughout my undergraduate and graduate studies – Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Shubert, Schumann, Chopin, Mahler, Stravinsky, Bartok,  etc., etc., etc., – way too many to mention. And of course there was much exploration and discussion about the “lesser” masters – the ones about whom we still know, and even enjoy, but for various reasons consider to be not at the “top tier” of those whose work rises to the top of the pile.

In this challenging situation everything that flows out into the world must be a masterpiece, and it shouldn’t flow out until it’s truly ready. So there are the blog posts that are 90% done; scores that need just a bit more work before going under the critical eye of the imagined or real public waiting to pounce upon every note; theoretical papers unpublished because they need be just right and completely researched and referenced establishing clear historical context; and video recordings of prior works that could and should be available for people to experience that need more crafting to make sure that the best view of the scene is being used and that the audio mix truly reveals the best and depth of what is in the work.

After every show I promise myself to be better at getting the work out. Of course I can give myself some leeway when I’m in the middle of producing a show, but once that’s done I have to push to complete the video, blog about the experience, and catch up on the stack of nearly completed projects. But there is always the next project, the pressing immediate deadline, and the stack of nearly ready projects gets higher and higher, and more daunting to address.

It is somewhat heartening to know that I am not alone in this struggle, that this has been written about for several hundred years with references found in the work of such masters as Voltaire (“Dictionnaire philosophique” and “La Bégueule”, in Contes (Tales), 1772) and Shakespeare (King Lear and Sonnet 103).

From Voltaire’s poem “La Bégueule”:

Dans ses écrits, un sage Italien
Dit que le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.

(In his writings, a wise Italian
says that the best is the enemy of good.)

From Shakespeare’s Sonnet 103:

Were it not sinful then, striving to mend,
To mar the subject that before was well?

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So with this in mind, I am glad, if not happy, to provide this video of some still images with a brief taste of some of the music from my April production of “Elijah in the Wadi”, performed at the Right Here Showcase at Illusion Theatre. I did create a four-minute video sampler from different scenes from the show, but it isn’t “good enough” to present yet. I look forward to sharing more comprehensive material as that becomes ready. That will hopefully be happening in about a month, after I’m done writing and producing the music for my current collaboration with the dance theater company Off Leash Area. They are preparing an intense and intensely deep, beautiful work “Afterwind”, and I encourage people to come see this show (details below). Off Leash Area is currently holding a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the show.

Here is information about “Afterwind”:

And go here to pursue interest in supporting the project’s Kickstarter campaign:

And I will continue to strive to not be stalled by the goal of perfection. I’m quite certain that with a bit more time I could make an insightful connection between the Elijah show and striving for perfection getting in the way of accomplishing the good, but if I waited for that to be done I would not be sharing this now. So I will leave that for a later post.