Imperfect storm

Eric Adams, the mayor of New York City, presents himself as a hard-core vegan – someone who lost 35 pounds and reversed vision loss and nerve damage from his type 2 diabetes by adopting a plant-based diet. He says his go-to dinner is kidney bean stew. Yum!

But the bigger the public servant, the harsher the spotlight, and gadfly journalists have reported that Mayor Adams has been spotted eating – gasp! – fish on more than one occasion.

  What do you have to say for yourself, Mayor?

“I’m the mayor of New York and I’m perfectly imperfect,” he said.

Which seems kind of politician-glib. But I thought about that phrase, and I kind of like it.

(It seems not to have originated with Hizzoner. There’s a ballad-y song on YouTube by a singer named Declan J. Donovan with that title, for one thing.)

“Perfectly imperfect” resonates with me, partly because I’ve long struggled with a streak of perfectionism that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. It’s paralyzing and it’s stupid, because perfection is not something given to mortals. Sins of commission and sins of omission creep into our lives; we make stupid decisions sometimes; we cut corners and disaster strikes; even when we recognize the flaws in our basic character, we feel powerless to change them. Imperfect through and through.

And yet, of course, the Book of Genesis tells us that with all our faults, we have been made in the image of God. It would be a bland world indeed (think of the opening scenes of Barbie, if you’ve seen it) if all and everyone were blameless and perfect.

What we have, then, is indeed perfectly imperfect – imperfect because we are human, perfect in the rightness of that truth, because it’s the truth of God’s created humanity. “Ring the bells that still can ring; forget your perfect offering,” sings Leonard Cohen. “There is a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in.”

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