Living the Altered Scale of Our Times

You’ve likely heard the phrase practice makes perfect.  

The challenge is that when we seek perfection, we often get stuck.  We associate perfection with flawlessness.  Yet break down the word to its root—per and fect in Latin—and something far richer emerges.  The prefix per means through and fect means to make or do.  What if perfection is not the absence of flaws or defects, but a means of making a way through?   Reconnecting with the root construct of the word, practice makes perfect presses not towards flawlessness, but practice that carries us through this time as we make a new way.  

The term altered scale must also be defined.  Altered scale in jazz refers to a musical scale based loosely on a major scale, but with alterations, that can lead in unanticipated directions.  There is tension and release.  There is variation.  There can be dissonance, there can harmony.  Altered scale takes both musician and listener on a journey.   What if we approached our  present context as an invitation to a journey, a journey of emergence found through practice and altered scale?

If ever there was a time when we need to acknowledge the need for altered scale and explore new practices, that time is now.  If we have learned nothing else from a global pandemic, George Floyd’s death, the US departure from Afghanistan, and the list goes on… it is that our actions matter.  Our actions, informed by our daily practices—small and large—inform how we engage with our world.  They shape what we think and guide what we do.  

The inspiration for these practices come from the chapter titles of a book entitled Dangerous Wonder.  Danger and wonder.  The dissonance of connecting these two words presses us to explore the paradoxical relationship between adjective and noun.  The adjective challenges, while the noun invites.  Joined together adjective and noun becomes a practice that stretches us beyond our comfort zones, inviting us to discover the altered scale for our time.  Our adjectives for this journey: dangerous, risky, wild, daring, wide-eyed, irresponsible, happy, naïve. Our nouns: wonder, curiosity, abandon, playfulness, listening, passion, terror, grace.  Together they invite us to embrace emergence.  

We stand at the crossroads.  Will we embrace our interdependence?  Or not? Will we respond to climate change and systemic injustice that we and future generations may live? Or not? The choice is ours.

To that end, these practices are an invitation to enter the altered scale of our lives.  Get ready to practice some dangerous wonder! Coming next Thursday!



Image: Swimming between tectonic plates in Iceland.


  1. No time like the present. One quality of a practice is that it is never-ending, one cannot achieve perfection, one can only move toward it. The key is that one move forward regularly and not just as a one-off exercise. Kind of like practicing one’s (altered) scales.

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