Embrace the happy accident

/ 14 July 2008

I was creating a simple mosaic at my mother’s house on Kelley’s Island this past week. I have not worked with tile in over a year. I miss it and was really happy to be getting my hands dirty again.


Tile is fairly unforgiving. Hard to shape. Easy to break. While learning to make curves with the wet saw I got to thinking:

The perfect is not the enemy of the good,
it is the enemy of the beautiful!
Embrace the happy accident.

We spend a lot of time trying to perfect things, especially in libraries. We are fond of order and authority. We insist that systems perform flawlessly. We are perfectionists. Technology for libraries is hard, at least as hard as cutting tile. Developing services for faculty and students is an ever-evolving challenge. We don’t have time to perfect, in fact, when we try we miss the boat.

But we all want to be proud of our work, to feel we have done our best. Beauty is often born of the “happy accidents” of brush stroke, blade, or muse. If we are awake to those accidents, open to them, ready to flow with them rather than against them, to find out where they lead. Accidents often lead to interesting resolutions we might not have thought of. They can point the way to simpler solutions, exciting opportunities. They can provide a natural spontaneity that elicits wonder from the viewer or users. They can be delightful.

Insisting on perfection makes little room for this sort of beauty. I think we should work on being open to the happy accident, embracing its beauty in our work, bringing some wonder to the eyes of our community.

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