Perfection is something we probably all strive for, at some point.
One day I asked a student, an ambitious high school senior, why he thought he should practice. He knew the answer right away. "Because practice makes perfect," he said.
"Does it?" I asked.
My point in turning it around like this was to get him to think about his purpose. To me, it seemed his stated goal of playing his piece "without making a mistake" was not compelling enough right then to get him to practice. He'd just been telling me how he hadn't made time to play that week, and how badly he felt about it.
My point was also this: what is perfect? Is it "not making a mistake"? A mistake, such as a wrong note or incorrect rhythm, something that on a professional recording would just be fixed, changed -- does the absence of something like this have to define our idea of perfect?
If we make this our sole focus, and thus place "perfect" at some undetermined, undeterminable point in the future, we can miss all the perfect things happening right here, right now:
a perfect attitude toward practice;
a perfect time to do it;
a perfect amount of light coming in the window;
a perfect feeling of the bow in your hand;
a perfect fifth between your tuned strings;
a perfect moment of understanding, where you feel the music and what it's conveying;
a perfect note, a perfect articulation, a perfect phrase.
It's worth opening up our ideas of perfect even more:
How can I practice this so that it sounds more and more like me?
How can I connect more and more to what the composer heard and felt when they wrote my piece?
How can I feel more and more at ease in my body and connected to my instrument as I play?
Approached like this, perfect builds on perfect. Right now.