A Message From Doug On Less Than Perfection

Jul 12, 2019

I’ve been thinking about Ira Glass this week. And Wendell Berry. 

As you know, we’re taking the summer to re-envision RadioWest. After 18 years, we figured the show needs a good going over – to see what still works, what needs to be fixed. It’s probably good to do that with anything from time to time. It reminded me of the early days of the show, talking about what we wanted to do and whether we would be able to pull it off. That’s what got me thinking of Ira.

He often talks about a lesson he wished someone had told him when he began doing radio. Ira says there’s this gap between the thing you want to make and the thing you can make. You have to realize the stuff you are putting out there at first just isn’t going to be that great. But if you have good taste, if that’s the thing that got you into the game, then eventually you’re going to get there. You just have to be patient. He says a lot of people never get past this phase. Ira says the only way to get through this is to do the work. He described it as fighting your way through it. To put yourself on deadline and just finish the piece. "It is only by going through a volume of work that you're going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you're making will be as good as your ambitions."

And, somehow, that’s what lead me to Wendell Berry. A few years ago on the show, we talked to the filmmaker Laura Dunn. She had a documentary about Wendell Berry at Sundance and it included this quote I’ll never forget. Berry had written about how farmers begin every year with a ‘vision of perfection.’ But as the season goes by, that vision is broken down by pests and diseases and the weather. "The crop year is a long struggle, ended invariably not by the desired perfection but by the need to accept something less than perfection as the best that could be done."

That’s what we’re doing this summer — trying to stay grounded, but also make something that lives up to our ambitions and represents the best that we can do.