I know many, many perfectionists, persons who live for excellence in all things. Thank God for them and people like them. Without them there would be no beautiful buildings, no remarkable paintings, no orchestras or Opera singers or technology that allows us to move beyond hard labour to a more gentle life. Without these perfectionists, without a spirit of excellence our culture would not be what it is, without them there would be no pieces of art or works of literature that would stand the test of time, work that would move people for generations to come. I love these people.
But believe it or not this ethos can get in the way of certain kinds of community. I am NOT making an argument for the watering down of standards, lowering the bar, making sub-par work acceptable. We all know that such a shift would make nothing last, would remove from our souls the possibility of being transcended by a timeless experience.
But in our lonely times there is a hunger for community and an organic experience of being together. Activities that help create community include plays, sports, choirs, art groups, card nights, book club, writing seminars, church services. If someone who is not blessed with talent in these areas and has moved to a new community the existing groups within these communities have a choice to make. If there reason for being is excellence, if by definition they see themselves as perfectionists in search of the timeless performance, they will need to make that clear. This new person will need to know s/he is likely not going to enjoy this experience of community.
But if this person of modest talent is looking for an existing group and there are groups in the community that are open to this modest talent level the group itself will need to make that clear as well. In fact they may need to celebrate that, like the You Gotta Sing chorus in Halifax-Dartmouth
The reality is that people are living longer, people are moving later in life and the hunger for community remains strong. If existing groups want to perpetuate themselves they will need to find ways to attract new people. And the central issue here is one of excellence and perfectionism.
I participate in an amateur theatre group here at Bethany. The Bethany Players perform either every other year or every year an amateur production, a script purchased for less than $100, with 25-30 actors with more enthusiasm than latent talent for the craft of acting. If this group assumed that excellence was the ethos for our productions I can guarantee you enrollment would shrink.
The outcome of our production is not timeless beauty. But it is a timeless experience for the participants of organic, healthy and rooted community. People in this play experience a sense of belonging. And at that stage of their lives and at this point in our history this meeting of the need for community is an important one.
The tension we face is to honour and celebrate perfectionists and excellence while at the same time creating space for organic community that allows for something that is less than perfect. Both are valuable. But clarity of intent is what will help persons know what group is for them.