It is, I suppose, merely a sign of increasing age that I have become (a little :-)) less idealistic. A sometime-reader of this blog will remember the enthusiasm with which, twenty-five or so years ago, I told him of my plans to build "the world's best short-wave receiver." I have thought of my own tendency towards perfectionism - which has very often worked against any actual tendency in me toward perfection - as my inclination to building yet another "world's best receiver."
I'm not really cured of the disease of perfectionism. Every time I start something, I have to fight the tendency to be sidetracked into WBR syndrome. "If I am going to finish my Yapese dictionary, I really need to get all the words in the Yapese Bible in. Oh, but then I'll have index them to the context they are a part of. But in that case..." I must keep in mind Chesterton's (What's Wrong With the World): "If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly."
We must work. We must do what we can. Yet all our efforts are imperfect - and at the end, all that we do will fade - like the grass of the field that withers. All is vanity.
And yet ... it is not so. The same Bible tells us (I Cor 15:58) "...your labour is not in vain in the Lord."
It is a mystery to me what "new heavens and new earth" can be - yet somehow I think that what we do - especially what we do with love here in the old earth under the old heavens - may be re-presented to us one day, perfected and shown in real beauty. Will it be rather like being a pupil of a great master artist? We will listen to him, make our attempts at drawing something beautiful - our frustration always there are our inability to do perfectly what we want, yet knowing that we are trying - and then - perhaps? - he will take it, change a line here, a colour there - and let us see what we were aiming at all along?
Today at Mass - the Fourth Sunday in Advent - I felt, somehow, that the Lord was with me - that even now, in the old earth and under the old heavens, He is encouraging me to try, to do my best, knowing that it can never be good enough - but knowing that the end of all my starts and uncertain attempts will be to be renewed - to be made, after all, what I had always wanted them to be.
May it be so.