imperfection, attained

perfection (n.)
the state or quality of being or becoming perfect

perfect (adj.)
conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type; excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement

– from dictionary.com

perfection is a funny thing.  it’s a state that most pool players continually try to obtain (but most likely fail).  as with most things in life, it’s advantageous to know what you’re going after before you go after it.  so what is perfection, in particular pool?

to be honest, i’ve never seen it.  have i seen great pool?  sure i have.  perfect pool?  no.  that’s because i don’t know what perfect is.

the fundamental problem, of course, is that perfection can be very tough to define.  in a nutshell, perfection is when something that matches the absolute ideal in an existing set of knowledge.  for example, a perfectly pure gold piece is 100% gold.  even if the piece is 99.99999% pure gold, it’s not theoretically perfect.  the gold example is an easy one, since it can be quantified and represented in numbers.  what about something more nebulous, like human performance in a game or a sport?  how would we define what perfection is then?

take a person’s form, for instance.  i’ve heard folks describing players as having a perfect form.  does that even exist?  my take is that when a person says that someone has a perfect form, it generally means that the form is perfect to the person that made the statement.  it means that to the person’s set of finite knowledge, the form he/she sees is perfect.  however, i think statements like that says more about the amount of the person’s knowledge rather than the actual player’s form.

i hate to drag out bustamante all the time, but he’s just too good an example.  i dare say that busti’s form is crappy.  if you’re a conscientious pool instructor, you would not teach that form to your new student.  but the statement could also mean that i know very little about what busti is doing, or the reasons behind his stroke.  so by making the statement that “busti’s form is crappy” may actually mean that i’m a giant ignoramus who knows nothing about pool or about busti’s game.  i think that busti’s form is perfect for busti, because it looks so natural for him.  but there lies another bias–my belief that looking natural means a form is perfect for you.  and on and on it goes.

when we make statements about another player’s form, it cuts both ways.  when a person says someone’s form is nearly perfect or perfect, it actually showcases that person’s amount of knowledge and bias; the statement defines, for those around you, your finite set of knowledge and its limits.  in short, it tells people what you think is perfect or good.  if you believe that your perfect is the absolute universal standard of perfect–boy, you have a long way to go, baby.

don’t take it from me.  take it from a mom who used to like making pronouncements.  and before you make pronouncements based on your knowledge, think on this.

Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.
– Matthew 5:36 KJV

by the way, propoolvideo is back up again.  that website baffles me.  i gave up on them after they went offline for more than a year.  all of a sudden, they’re back on again.  well, at least they’re back, which means we get to watch more pool matches for free.  not a bad deal.  catch their matches while they last; no telling if or when they’ll be gone again.  i’m hoping they stay on.

and finally, i’ve decided to stop participating in the poolsynergy project.  i feel that it’s time for me to move on and put more focus on my blog.  it has been fun, but nothing lasts forever.  i wish the poolsynergy project luck and hope they continue to thrive.

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5 comments on “imperfection, attained

  1. Bobby Fischer was widely considered to have approached perfection in some of his chess games; however in other games he sometimes lost and occasionally he lost badly. We don’t really have a good idea of what “perfection” in chess should look like (compare Tal and Petrosian who both became world champions); how much more difficult would it be to formulate a concept of perfection in billiards, in which there are many more variables at play.

    • very true. for billiards, we have to define what perfection is in the first place. even if we do, there won’t be any player that can be called perfect.

  2. Pardon me while I pull out my soap box… *scraaaaaape*
    I often say that we live in a probabilistic world. What I mean by that is there is variation in all things, i.e. nothing is absolute. The only thing that I can say with absolute certainty is that nothing is absolute. Wait a minute, did I just contradict myself? 😉
    “Perfection” is the same way. Nothing is perfect, especially in pool. I think a case can be made that if you start with a new person who has never played pool before, there are certain styles or forms that will allow the player to improve at a faster rate than if they use other styles or forms, but ultimately, it’s up to the player to see how far they can take it. Can a person with ‘bad form’ or rather ‘non-traditional form’ become one of the world’s greatest players? Certainly. But the road to the summit will likely be longer. Just my opinion. 😉

  3. As the saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. The word “Beauty” can be substituted with “Perfection”. Or the sentence can be, “Perfection is in the mind of the beholder.” Now, how about that?

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