“Good, better, best.
Never let it rest.
‘Til your good is better,
and your better best.”
The above quote, often attributed to St. Jerome, sounds a little jaunty for a 4th century maxim. Nevertheless, it was repeated often in my 20th century childhood household. At her wedding last summer, my cousin’s daughter, an aspiring actress, repeated it back to me as a treasured memory of my dad. It seems we’ve each internalized this paean to determination in our own ways.
I’ve recently noticed, after all these years, that “perfect” has no place in the saying. It’s about step-by-step improvement. About trying one’s best. About excellence, not perfection. “Slow and steady wins the race” was another of Dad’s favorites! Great notions, all, for knitters.
You might have noticed I’m a fan of quotes: Aphorisms. Words of encouragement. Guiding principles. Mantras to savor. They invite me to reflect, sometimes reject, and often to dig deeper and discover new writers and thinkers. All in an effort to do a little bit better next time.
As we head into a brand new year, we look forward. But we also look back over our shoulders: What bears repeating? What needs improving? What should we let go? We make choices, we set priorities, each time around bringing our newest “best” to the effort.
While a dogged desire for improvement often characterizes my efforts, I’ve begun to take exception to the notion of “Never let it rest.” It helps to remember the effectiveness of allowing space: Space to reflect. Space to open. Space to listen. Indeed, space to rest. This winter, let’s be gracious to ourselves. There’s something kind about repeating simple projects that we know and love, knitting for the sake of knitting. Chances are, a little “better” will sneak into our work while we let down our striving.
And still, another favorite aphorism of mine says, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”
In this newsletter, after the hoopla of the holiday season, we like to reset our focus—on what’s working, what’s worth revisiting, what’s worth saving—bringing a new eye to something we have loved while also keeping our eye out for something fresh and new.
As we move ahead into a clean tomorrow, I take heart in these words of Surrealist painter Salvador Dali: “Have no fear of perfection—you’ll never reach it.”