Forever Falling Short

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Not long after he was conceived, who became his son’s mid-wife said: may he fulfill his genetic potential. This scientific salutation to the world, might—who became his father, the latter thought over for some months, almost three decades later—just as well be, or have been, a curse. There are electronic devices, machines, for instance whose function is exactly to play music. And there are others, such as computers, whose function is exactly to record data, nothing more, in addition to processing of course this data. There are others as well, such as an elongated butane lighter whose exact function and purpose is to ignite charcoal briquettes that have been pre-soaked in lighter fuel to make possible a joyful outdoor gathering of folk together over a holiday barbecue. In all of these, the final measure of a thing, some thing of some human invention, is the degree to which the mapping of its purpose to its function fits perfectly. Things, such as a sword, or a well-weighted spoon used for eating cereal even, which have reached a point or a pitch of perfection so perfect such that further betterment cannot be imagined, these have reached their fullest potential. As for human beings, the father had been thinking, while his sleeping now grown son was visiting him, these are best defined by never reaching their potential at all; they are always falling short; they are always full of shortcomings. Unlike the things which humans make, socks that get holes in the heel, pull-cords on lawnmowers that break, rocket ships that blow up—what makes humans are not their perfections at all. While they themselves may make things that are, in fact, absolutely perfect, their blessing is that they may be curious, full of wonder, and playful, which the things they make may in their creation and in their being created resemble, seem to be, and even be a substitute for, but, inshallah, will never become.

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