"Iterating 'more perfect' never produces perfection, thank heavens."

The General Electric Corporation's advertisements, back when it was the largest corporation in the world, used to tout that "Progress Is Our Most Important Product." What then? I assumed that by injecting progress at every step, the company plugged into a positively recursive progression, where progress built upon progress to create ever more sublime expressions of progress until reaching some sort of engineering nirvana. Then people started asking what they meant by progress. GE started focusing upon financing more than engineering, and as companies tend to do, they dabbled, then grew to dominate, a rather shady side of the street, credit default swaps and other "junk" instruments. How does one inject progressive quality into the junk financing market? GE managed it by swallowing many bad investments, essentially swallowing themselves like James Whitcomb Riley's infamous Squimum-Squeegy "what swallered his self." GE was recently delisted. Now it seems to be GoingBackToGoBackToGo on the great Monopoly® board of industry.

GE serves as just another more recent example of companies following Ozymandias' lead. The mighty fall. The great ultimately achieve greater humility.
GE, once the combined Apple, Alphabet, Tesla, and Facebook of its time, now seems to have achieved the lofty state of GoingBackToGoBackToGo again. My glib marketing professor insisted that businesses exist on a sort of wheel, their evolution ultimately circular. Small grows into bigger, bigger shrinks back to small, the stages of this curious progression not necessarily regular. Great discontinuities can and actually do occur, most often at unexpected and inconvenient times. Some formerly dominant operations vaporize like when mechanical refrigeration rendered the ice man moot. Others pull a General Electric and recede from foreground prominence having seemingly bartered away their once noble and dominant identity.

Abraham Lincoln insisted that the people of the United Stated were engaged in creating "a more perfect union," though it would be a fundamental attribution error to ask when we might achieve perfection. Lincoln's statement serves as an infinite conditional because he employed the limiting 'more' in it. One can infinitely achieve more perfection without ever actually achieving perfection itself. 'More perfect' subtly includes a few GoingBackToGoBackToGo stages where missteps and misadventures seem to send progress to the showers to reconsider earlier strategies. Progress needn't always constitute forward movement. Strategic retreat, a step back and down, might prove to be a necessary part of creating a more perfect anything.

I learned that my ophthalmologist needs a do-over on one of the cataract surgeries he performed on me last summer. It's almost Thanksgiving now and I had not been emotionally prepared for this seeming setback. I had believed myself beyond that episode, though my vision had never even regained the acuity I'd enjoyed before that surgery. Sometimes progress amounts to little more than putting an effort behind me, whewing gratefully even though the well-intended effort came to naught, or even less than naught. Each experience adds to the base, positioning me for some next move, and progress in life as well as in business, tends toward the circular. Lessons Learned become Lessons Relearned or Unlearned or, likely, Re-relearned until I just have to wonder what learning means. It clearly does not mean 'take permanent possession of' since it seems to unpredictably slip away. Perhaps I should consider mere experience the surrogate for progress here. I reliably collect experiences which never evolve into anything more than more perfect ones, never perfect once. If I can't simply live happily ever after, I might reasonably strive to simply live happily for now, happy being a property of the here and now and not—never—of the ever after.

I might most usefully perceive progress as a form of coping. I cope better with GoingBackToGoBackToGo experiences than I used to. Some seem to take these normal setbacks as if they were curses, The Gods in league against them ever achieving an imagined perfection. But the objective just must have been that ever-circular More Perfect, so who's to say that today's setback isn't satisfying the longer-term intention? Coping might amount to no more than an insistent "we'll have to see" sort of attitude. Rather than taking an apparent stumble at face value, I might more usefully consider that each raw experience holds little meaning unless perceived in a broader and wider frame, requiring distance before I could possibly comprehend it. GoingBackToGoBackToGo hardly qualifies as a fate. It better qualifies as another potentially informative (and perhaps entertaining) plot twist. I should have known that the butler had done it. I read like I might live, for the inherent entertainment value of the experience rather than for any advantageous positioning on a spinning circular hierarchy. Iterating 'more perfect' never produces perfection, thank heavens. It was never supposed to.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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