Pondering if...then (chasing perfection)

4:31 PM

I was loading the dishwasher when I got the phone call from MoonPie. He was walking Yoohoo and happened to notice there was a spectacular sunset. "Quick!" he said. "Grab your camera and go outside. There is a gorgeous sunset right now." I dug my camera out of the closet, ran outside, and quickly snapped this picture from my front yard before it was gone. My first thought was, "Darn. If I had been walking by the lake, then this would have been a great photo." My second thought was, "If I had been quicker getting my camera, then I would have caught more color. What a waste of a sunset."

Think back when you were required to come up with a science fair project every year. Do you remember your hypothesis was usually phrased as an "If..then" statement? For example, If you drink coffee before bed, then you will hate yourself at 3 am. If you must do a science fair project this year, then you and your parents will have at least three meltdowns before spring. (You get the idea.)

I play the "If..then" game with myself all the time when it comes to taking photographs. Here are a few that are my standards:

  • If I had different lenses, then I could take really amazing photographs. (I use the kit lens that came with the camera.)

  • If I would read my camera manual, then I would know how to plan my shots better. (Umm..true dat.)

  • If I lived in (fill-in-the-blank), then I could photograph amazing views of (fill-in-the-blank). (Thinking of waterfalls, ocean sunsets, AND mountain views. All in my yard, of course.)

  • If I would learn how to use photoshop, then I could turn icky photos into masterpieces. (Not true, but it makes me feel better about my icky photos.)

I take hundreds of photographs, but rarely take a second look at most of them because I'm always playing out in my mind why they aren't anything special. I do this in other areas of my life, too. (If I knew how to cook, then I would entertain more. If I had more money, then I would be able to give more. If I were a different size, then I would dress better. If I could remember basic grammar and punctuation rules, then I would write more.) Truth is, perfection is rarely attainable for most of us because our perceptions are based on others' perceptions of perfection and not our own.

The sunset that day was glorious, and I didn't capture it perfectly with my camera. But I did capture the moment and when I saw this today I had the memory of watching MoonPie and Yoohoo walking back up to the house. Both of them were smiling. I have the memory of the three of us watching that glorious sunset totally disappear. I have the memory of hearing the cicadas reaching a crescendo and seeing the fireflies darting across the yard. I have the memory of us walking into the house holding hands and laughing. If I had not snapped this imperfect picture, I would remember none of it. That's the thing about forming an "If..then" hypothesis on what constitutes perfection. It isn't true until it has been proven. My initial hypothesis was incorrect.

This one was perfect after all.

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