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CHASING PERFECTION

By Bobby Haas

07/15/2021

Circles

Our newly released documentary—named, aptly enough, Leaving Tracks—used to have a subtitle Chasing Perfection—but when we were designing the artwork for the streaming platforms, we convinced ourselves that the phrase Chasing Perfection was so powerful that it would fight for top billing with Leaving Tracks, so we dropped Chasing Perfection and left the title all by itself on the poster art. Besides, we figured the audience would realize soon enough that Leaving Tracks was itself a double entendre which refers not only to motorcycles “leaving tracks” in their wake but also how life challenges each of us to “leave tracks” when it is time for our wake.

Actually, the phrase “chasing perfection” is the title of an essay I wrote 16 years ago for the first of five books that National Geographic published of my photographic work.  There too, the phrase had two meanings—chasing the perfect photographic image and chasing perfection in our lives—as is apparent from the italicized excerpts below from that 16-year-old essay.

The synopsis of our film emphasizes how as founder of the Haas Moto Museum, I was bonded to our premier custom builders, in fact to all custom builders worldwide, by the frustrations of chasing perfection— “The pursuit of perfection is a dangerous game, played on a field with endless distractions, hemmed in by blind alleys and cul-de-sacs.”

“The pursuit of perfection is a dangerous game, played on a field with endless distractions, hemmed in by blind alleys and cul-de-sacs.”

Flamingos

Flamingos align in an eerily perfect birdlike formation along the Yucatán Peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Photo credit: Bobby Haas

Building a custom motorcycle is a chase for perfection, a journey littered with potholes even for the greatest of custom builders—the Hazans and the Rodsmiths and the Siegls and the Shinyas of this oil-stained world whose masterpieces adorn the Haas Moto Museum. But it is a chase that artists and athletes and parents pursue anyway—“Relentlessly seeking perfection—in ourselves or others—sets a standard that resembles a much too narrow needle through which the course thread of human nature chafes against the eye and will not fit.”

It is a chase that custom builders are drawn to, time and again, every time the first component for a new project is placed on a lift or in a vise—“We all learn soon enough that the playing field of our lives is not a well-ordered rectangle; the rules of the game are seldom clear, or even fair. Perhaps that’s one reason why the artist turns to art, in search of a blank canvas that offers up a brand new start, a four-cornered world where perfection is still a worthy goal.”

The rare occasions in which an artist senses perfection can be an emotional and compelling experience.  In the brief excerpt below from our documentary Leaving Tracks, master craftsman Dirk Oehlerking cannot keep his emotions in check when describing how his creations are exhibited perfectly in the Haas Moto Museum.

Video-Show

Whether as custom builders or artists or parents or simply those who live so-called “regular” lives, we often return to the playing field and pursue the chase again.“In the end, the chase itself might simply be a harmless way of raising the bar, of aspiring to levels we might not otherwise achieve.  Those who chase this elusive goal do so with full knowledge that the quest will never be over … but the journey never be pointless.”

For everyone who is now reading this blog, you have probably sought perfection in some aspect of your life and rarely, if ever, attained what you were seeking. But the joy is still yours. As I wrote back in 2004, “The search has no logical outcome, just the thrill of having played the game.”

“The search has no logical outcome, just the thrill of having played the game.”

Sistine Chapel

"The Creation of Adam" by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City,

circa 1508-1512