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December 2021

Argument Writing with the Oratorio: Some Truth, some Fiction

I must admit that I love pretending that I'm fully invested in my English degree with a PhD in rhetoric and composition, but the truth is I only had time for a masters. Maybe when I retire, I can do the PhD for fun. If that's possible; if I have any brains left by then. For now, it's enough to just play around with all of the cool things I've learned. Recently, Dr. Joliffe taught us to use the ancient oratorio for our arguments, and I had quite a bit of fun with that by just writing to a prompt that asked me to argue whether or not perfection is a "good" thing. I actually despise the perfectionist in a general type of way, but I knew I would have to write about some specific examples, so I decided to pick on my sister. It's okay if I pick on her because she isn't worried about me at all, and she has enough self confidence to fill a battle ship. 

After a rough edit, this is what I ended up with.

Perfection? Not us!

    While striving for more money and property, my sister, a millionaire with ties to Moscow and the legal financial world, managed to ruin my perception of the perfectionist. At dinners around the table with my elderly grandmother and infant nephew, my sister would chronically fling her micro and macro aggressions in my direction. My free spirit and lack of accountability irritated her sense of perfection. I wanted to spend my life traveling, not crunching numbers (she's a certified public accountant), and I rarely left anything on my plate because I was dirt poor. Starving, the dinners with Grandma helped me survive my poverty. 

    The grades seemed to matter to my sister: the F in journalism because I failed to withdraw; the C in psychology, a class she despised; the multi-national group of students that drew me in, none of us focusing on perfect attendance, perfect scores, or even a perfect character--no moral compass for us--no perfection, not even close. Because I learned how to become inwardly happy, to accept my imperfections and embrace them, happiness has not eluded me as it does for the millions of overstressed and angry type A perfectionists that suffer from loneliness and isolation.

    Perfection in itself is an unattainable goal as I noted in yesterday's faculty meeting. While other overstressed teachers contemplated how to make a perfect 100% on the ridiculous Danielson framework for providing feedback to students, I kept to my inner mantra--"I can try, but I'm not going to kill myself if I am not perfect." I know perfection eludes the people that seek out its fellowship. I've seen its lack of grace and style, its slump into solipsism, and its retreat from society. I've seen its relentless pressure paint a grimace across my sister's lips and chin, and strip the laughter from her throat.

    But me, I'm a proud gypsy, a hobo, with tattered accoutrements, failed plans, and a surging deficit. I'm an imperfect laugh and smile, a bottle of gin, a hangover, a happy clout. But a perfectionist? I think not!