“Perfect” is just my pathetic attempt to hide

Comedian Marc Maron has a fantastic recent podcast episode where he interviews jazz pianist Ben Sidran.

In the midst of a long, fascinating discussion about jazz and rock music and the music scene of the 60’s and 70’s, Maron and Sidran has this interchange that’s really about more than just music [starting at about 36:20 on the podcast]:

Sidran: In jazz you can spend 8 hours a day blowing through a copper tube, right, and I promise you that after 10 years that tube will not change, but you will be totally transformed.

We’re transforming ourselves here, and you can’t do it if you’re not in public. If you can’t make your mistakes in front of people, it doesn’t matter, so what? You can’t make a mistake alone and you’re sitting there with friends – you gotta go out and hang it out.

Maron: That’s getting lost in the culture we live in now, across the board – there’s an expectation of quality content to be provided at all times, and if you do let it hang out and it doesn’t go well, you’ve got an entire culture of people who are gonna be ‘Aaah, he didn’t, you know, he let it hang out and he’s an a**hole, and it didn’t work’, and now that’s out there being misinterpreted.

Here we are as human beings looking for personal truths, willing to make mistakes in public and fight the good fight, and you’ve got a bunch of a**holes who are gonna be, like, ‘well, you didn’t quite do it, did you?’. Well that’s part of the thing! We’re at risk of losing what is organically human in the creative process.

Sidran: Well that’s the same thing in the music business, especially as you get further and further into digital technology, it’s possible to fix it. You know, just because it’s possible to make something perfect doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

Maron: What is “perfect”, right?

Sidran: What is “perfect”. Perfect is just your pathetic attempt to hide in the technology, right? “Ooh, I made a mistake.” But the stuff that we love is, for me, and I’ll bet it’s the same in comedy – it’s not so much avoiding the mistakes but how you recover from mistakes.

Like if you’re in public and you do something and you didn’t intend to do it and the first thought in your mind is “shit, what did I just do?”, if you can train yourself to say “I’m gonna make something out of that”, in that recovery there is transcendence, and people have a sense that something magical just happened. It’s in the recovery. It’s not in being perfect, it’s in letting it all come through and using it.

Maron: Right, I love it. I never thought about it like that. Like every moment of misstep is an opportunity to transcend that moment.

There’s so much truth there, and the spiritual application isn’t far off, whether Maron and Sidran know it or not. Each of us as Christians have our own experiences of pain and failure to work through – some greater than others. (My mind immediately went to recent pieces from blog friends Aaron Smith and Zach Hoag, just two of many.)

And while our ultimate hope is for the day when Jesus will restore us from brokenness and transform us into something beautiful, new, and eternal, we see temporal glimpses of that transformation as God works in us now, in the responses that Maron and Sidner talk about here.

In the recovery, we see transcendence. Something holy working to heal and transform.

If you can’t make your mistakes in public, what does it matter? How much do I really believe in grace if I want to go into the studio and edit all the mistakes out of my life before I show it in public?

“Perfect” is just my pathetic attempt to hide. It’s not in being “perfect”, because perfect is impossible. Often due to my own failings – sometimes due to the failings of others who have hurt me. Where we see the transcendent, though, is when we let all of that through, and then see God working and shining through the brokenness.