I learned that we can be imperfect and that it is ok. Even it is possible that we have to be imperfect for being neuroscientists, because the brain is dynamic and plastic, and only an imperfect observer can change enough and evolve for understanding dynamic phenomena.

I sometimes feel my own life shaped by the choice for imperfection, by the choice for the incompleteness which is the only attitude that opens ourselves to the expectance of understanding something new, something that does not exist before. No one has been so committed with imperfection as Rita Levi-Montalcini. Her story is the one of a woman who made the choice of facing neuroscience with a dynamic perplexity. That is the important thing in these lines, everything else have been already told in (scientific) literature.

This morning I wrote “NGF” in the cap of an eppendorf tube with my imperfect caligraphy, and I remembered the uncomfortable state that pushes us forward. Now we know that Rita Levi-Montalcini discovered the Nerve Growth Factor when bombs were still falling around, and jewish people were being discriminated or persecuted by Mussolini. Her research project begins at her own bedroom and does not end, even after the Nobel award; because there is nothing that relieves the craving and expectation for understanding. The imperfect observer must research for living, for reach a sort of equilibrium called perplexity.

Her book “In praise of imperfection” starts citing an eloquent poem of William Butler Yeats, called “The choice”:

“The intellect of man is forced to choose
perfection of the life, or of the work;
and if it take the second must refuse
a heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.
When all that story’s finished, what’s the news?
In luck or out, the toil has left its mark:
That old perplexity and empty purse,
or the day’s vanity, the night’s remorse.”

Imperfection is unsafe and does not guarantee any kind of happiness or peace (not for Dr. Rita, not for us). Sometimes even it offers rage in the dark and an empty purse. But imperfection ensures that you will keep that old perplexity.

After writing “NGF” in the cap of the eppendorf tube, I performed an experiment for testing a very smart hypothesis. The phenomenon said “NOT” and showed what it wanted to show. I felt a little more proud with my questions without answer, with my imperfect hypothesis, with my limited tools and my natural perplexity, that old perplexity.

Tomorrow morning we going to begin all over again.