Saturday, May 17, 2008

Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days

Originally uploaded by jpockele
This is the title of a book by Stephen Manes that I read probably close to twenty years ago at this point. It's a children's book, and the story is about a kid who finds a book claiming it can tell him how to be a perfect person in three days. (SPOILER ALERT!) In the end, the boy discovers that to be a perfect person, he would basically have to do nothing but sit around and sip weak tea - and although it may allow him to be "perfect", it wouldn't make him a very interesting person or allow him to lead a very fulfilling life.

I remember liking this book because it was wonderful to realize that perhaps perfection isn't such a wonderful goal to have. I’ve been thinking about this a lot this week. I was feeling guilty about neglecting my posts, traveling, a few recent purchases, driving too much…the list could go on.

I have also been thinking about perfection in the context of blogging…it’s easy and fun to write about all my experiments that turn out well, and pretend that I’m getting closer to perfection every day. I have a whole list of experiments that haven’t turned out so well though. Like the tortillas I made that were so hard, when I tried to roll them they cracked in half. Or the cream soda that, unlike my ginger ale, was not only not delicious, but looked and tasted like the pond water I used to collect in school to see what organisms we could see under the microscope. Or the loaf of bread that was so dense, I considered using it as a doorstop. The list goes on, but hopefully you get the point and I don’t have to own up to all my flopped projects.

The point of all of this is that, as I’ve reminded myself before, the goal is not perfection. The goal, for me, anyway, is improvement. I want to be living a better life, not a perfect life – which is good, since I don’t ever plan on doing nothing but sitting around sipping weak tea.

Speaking of tea, it’s been really hot here. I wanted some iced tea the other day. I pulled out the container of instant iced tea mix in my cupboard, noticed the plastic lid, foil lining on the inside of the can, thought about how and if this could be recycled, turned to the ingredient label, which listed sugar, citric acid, instant tea, caramel color, natural lemon flavor and red 40, and put it back on the shelf. It didn’t seem so appealing suddenly.

If I was perfect, I probably would have decided to have a glass of water. But I really wanted the iced tea. So I pulled out a couple of mason jars, filled them with water, floated three tea bags in each (one per cup of water) screwed the lids on, and set it on my balcony for a little over an hour. I let it cool down a bit, poured it over a glass full of ice, and added some honey and lemon slices. It was really easy, not to mention cheaper than the lesser quality stuff for sale in the stores.

I may not be perfect, but the tea was.


Verde said...

Ah, my daughter has been on about that red 40 - they learned about it in school.

That sounds like a wonderful book.

Melissa said...

that's pretty cool that your daughter's school is teaching them that stuff. my high school had a taco bell and coke machine in the cafeteria. maybe things are changing?