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  • Dec 24, 2014
  • Updated: 4:43am
PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 November, 2013, 6:49pm
UPDATED : Monday, 25 November, 2013, 9:05pm

Imperfections are perfectly fine

Peter Kammerer says if perfection is a mirage, then a more sensible attitude to life is to rethink our insecurities of being imperfect


Peter Kammerer is a long-time columnist and commentator for the SCMP. He has received recognition for his writing at the Hong Kong news Awards, the annual Human Rights Press Awards and from the Society of Publishing in Asia. Before moving to Hong Kong in 1988, he worked on newspapers in his native Australia.  

I shocked my mother during a visit home a few years ago. She had told me that if she could be given a single wish, it would be for my eyesight to be restored. I told her that being able to see was the last thing I wanted. To say that she was speechless is to make light of the 10 minutes of silence that ensued.

When she had regained her composure, the conversation turned to the topic of perfection - starting with perfect vision. Never having had such a thing, being born blind in one eye and having gradually lost the little sight I had known in the other, it is not a matter I can relate to. Why would I want something I am unfamiliar with? I have adapted to my circumstances, am happy with them and feel no need to change them.

All our imperfections make us perfect. In an instant, the pressure to change is gone

Memories of this came flooding back while participating in an art project in North Point last month. Based around the topic of imperfection, it involved being blindfolded and disoriented on a grassy area at the Oil Street Art Space, listening to a meditation-like soundtrack, indicating perceived emotional deficiencies on a card and then drinking a herbal tea to fill the gap. Called "I'mperfect Xchange", and the brainchild of designers Hung Lam and Eddy Yu, it delves into their fascination with things imperfect.

Their I'mperfect movement began with a statistic. While working with ceramics, they found that up to 15 per cent of items that were produced were being discarded for having minor blemishes. There was usually nothing wrong with the pieces that affected functionality; customers simply demanded that coffee mugs and the like be perfect in every way. That got the pair wondering why people desire perfection not only from objects, but also from themselves and others.

Their project is designed to make us think. Will a drink of tea created from herbs grown in the grounds really make us feel whole again? I struggled to decide which of the 20 emotions marked on the card I fitted - I was not bored, stressed, annoyed or hurt, to recount a few. I ended up marking that I was dry and numb. Lining up for my restorative tea, though, I realised that imperfection is more than skin deep - it is also a state of mind. From the perspective of health and mental well-being, I'd wager none of us are perfect. The global pharmaceuticals industry knows that well, which is why it makes trillions of dollars annually.

There are also those companies that prey on the insecurities of beauty and self-perception with products to whiten or darken the skin, smooth wrinkles and, with lasers and injections, reshape. It taps directly into one of my long-time fascinations: why so many Western women long to be tanned while their Asian sisters crave to be fair.

I have concluded that perfection is about individuality. We each have an idea of what perfect is and many of us spend our lives searching for it. Truth be told, it does not exist. We can pop all the pills we like, buy the trendiest of clothes and drink all the coffee we like, but the effects eventually wear off.

I've got a new way of explaining my thinking about my eyesight to my mother. All our imperfections make us perfect. In an instant, the pressure to change is gone.

Peter Kammerer is a senior writer at the Post


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PK’s conclusion is rather personal. It is valid if evaluated at personal level. But the world treats perfection very differently. It is a common yardstick to maintain a maximum standard in all kinds of things and doings. Even beauty conscious while applies on oneself it is measured against a common standard of what beauty is.
There is value in imperfection nevertheless. I had bought ceramic plates from street vendors which were with slight flaws. I paid only a very low fraction as oppose to the perfect ones I can get in Crate and Barrel of which the imperfect plates might have been made for but rejected by it. I was very happy.
But imperfection beyond cheap plates is a torture for me to experience. As an architect, walking around seeing all these imperfectly designed buildings just pain me. That once ugly (beyond imperfect) Christmas tree in Central had prompted David Tang, owner of Shanghai Tang to write in expressing his total aghast.
Peter Kammerer and Alex Lo are the two columnists at SCMP who have the freest range in their pick of topics for their columns to write. They behave like two free radicals, not exactly of the chemical kind, but nevertheless they write with ideas that are not ordinary but all with bonding ability for our mind to reflect. Their drinking beer together, as once told by AL, might be inspiring for them to shoot breezes to each other. Much too can be said they both are quite open to their readers about their life outside of SCMP office. I know quite a bit of their personal life as a result through their columns. They are serious but also as happy as a lark. I like that.


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