A Form of Perfection

by Alexa Van Dalsem October 07, 2016

On the first morning of our late summer camping trip, I woke to the sound of light rain pattering on the tent and my youngest son, all six years of him, crawling through the tent divider to the mom and dad side of the tent. He wore the Darth Vader footy pajamas he’d packed for himself and a big, furry buffalo hat. His two, well-loved blankets were balled up in his arms. He looked at me with his large blue eyes, saw that I was awake, and gave me a smile like I was the most perfect thing to see just then. Dropping his blankets on my chest, he finished crawling through and lay with me, quietly snuggling. The pajamas, his furry hat, the rain, the warmth of a tent filled with my sleeping family, the blankets, that smile, his still little body close to mine; it felt like a most perfect moment.

The camping trip was full of an inexplicable number of perfect moments in the brightness of stars and appearance of the Milky Way, aspens at the higher elevations already glowing yellow, helping to build a cabin in the middle of nowhere, kids playing in the dirt with sticks and rocks, and just being messy for three days. Bright stars. Bright leaves. Bright shared happiness. The trip capped an eventful summer of travel to see family in Florida and California, a new baby niece, beach-sister-sun time, embarking on raising backyard chickens, and starting to road bike. How much I feel my cup running over.

And (not “but”) the summer was also messy because there were humans involved, lots (and lots) of family time, and the endless challenges of things not working right. My three kids fought the usual fights with admirable consistency. We parents did our best to stifle impatience, but there was admittedly some yelling at the kids and each other. On our drive to California, the truck suddenly decided to take a brief nap on the highway, which my sister dealt with by calmly and expertly steering us to the shoulder (thankfully, the truck quickly woke up). The trip to Florida almost started with ditching luggage because it wouldn’t stay on the truck. We also learned that the problem with naming chickens is that saying goodbye to the illegal roosters is that much harder (we’ll never forget you General Tsao and Reepicheep!).

Socrates recounts in the Phaedo, one of Plato’s dialogues about “eidos.” Eidos are “the concept of ‘eternal form,’ by which he meant the immutable essence that can only be ‘participated in’ by material, or sensible, things” (https://www.britannica.com/topic/form-philosophy). These forms are unchangeable, eternal, independent, and divine entities we can mentally grasp. From them, we understand the perfect form of things, though we never experience them in our world. It is through forms that we understand goodness or the perfect form of a circle. What we actually experience, though, is only shadows of these forms.

My tendency is to imagine life as a shadow of the Garden of Eden. Eden was perfect and held true goodness and love and peace. From the Biblical account of Eden and in our connection to God, we can mentally grasp a perfect relationship with God, with other people, with nature, with ourselves. But whether we can actually experience this or any form of perfection, I have doubted. Though messy and, in all the many human ways, imperfect, this summer captured so many moments that truly felt perfect in the sharing and experiencing of the divine. They were blessings, and blessings can only be perfect, even if they’re messy.

That morning in the tent with my son, I wanted to take a picture of him and the smile he gave me with the look of you-are-so-perfect in his eyes, but my phone was tucked away. I wanted to hold and capture that perfect moment. I wrote it in my journal after we got home––perhaps the best, maybe most perfect way, to capture that perfection.


Alexa Van Dalsem
Alexa Van Dalsem

Author

Alexa Van Dalsem, a grant writer by trade, writes short stories, poetry, a personal blog and, most recently, short movie scripts. In her free time, Alexa enjoys playing with her family and spending time in the great outdoors of her home state, Colorado. Alexa's short story "Black Leather Shoes" was featured in Ruminate's Issue 01: Chewing on Life



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