A Brief Reflection on Perfection


Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of J.S. Bach and Handel, shifting back and forth between these two magnificent composers.

One thing that strikes me is that Bach seems to my ear the technically superior composer. His compositions are nearly perfect in terms of organization and construction, works of beauty indeed.

But another and somewhat surprising thing that strikes me is I prefer Handel. At a certain point I tire of Bach; beautiful as his music is, it becomes almost tedious at times in its relentless consistency, and almost exhausting at times in its supreme intricacy.

I never tire of Handel, though. His music is not quite as complex and not as tightly structured (though it is pretty darn tight), but I enjoy the tension he creates by going back and forth between what you could call nice background music, and, sometimes out of nowhere, spectacular heights of drama and intensity.

All of this makes me wonder:

1. Is perfection boring? Remember the old Talking Head song, Heaven:

“The band in heaven
They play my favorite song
Play it one more time
Play it all night long
Heaven is a place
A place where nothing
Nothing ever happens
Heaven is a place
A place where nothing
Nothing ever happens”

2. Is the greatest beauty to be found in upward movement? Saints are remembered and revered not because they were born saints, but because they overcame weakness and sin.

3. Can we even recognize perfection without the presence of imperfection?

2 Replies to “A Brief Reflection on Perfection”

  1. Two comments.
    1. “Variety is the spice of life.” Maybe we need more than perfection.
    2. I’m not sure I’d go to the Talking Heads for theological insight.

    1. Excellent points, Bill, and thanks for reading the article. The Talking Heads are not St. Thomas Aquinas, but there does seem to be an important point in those lyrics, though perhaps not theological in nature.

Leave a Reply