I. Introduction: Definition of Asymptote, Two Entries [source: dictionary.com]
as·ymp·tote ( P ) Pronunciation Key (sm-tt, -mp-)
n. A line whose distance to a given curve tends to zero. An asymptote may or may not intersect its associated curve.
[Ultimately from Greek asumpttos, not intersecting : a-, not; see a-1 + sumpttos, intersecting (from sumpiptein, sumpt-, to converge : sun-, syn- + piptein, to fall; see pet- in Indo-European Roots).]
asymp·totic (-ttk) or asymp·toti·cal adj.
n : a straight line that is the limiting value of a curve; can be considered as tangent at infinity; “the asymptote of the curve”
Source: WordNet ® 2.0, © 2003 Princeton University
II. Some Rhetorical Questions:
If it is nigh impossible (which I take to mean asymptotic) to achieve an ideal, then does that mean that ideal is false? For instance, if it is nigh impossible to achieve perfect generosity, then does that mean generosity as an absolute virtue does not exist and therefore what is the point on trying to be generous since it’s an impossible goal anyway? If it is nigh impossible to achieve perfect honesty, then does that mean honesty as an absolute virtue does not exist and therefore what is the point trying to be honest since it’s an impossible goal anyway? If it is nigh impossible to achieve that perfect job, then does that mean the perfect job doesn’t exist and therefore what is the point of trying to work in a job that’ll make one happy since it’s an impossible goal anyway?
III. A Conclusion:
These I take to be rhetorical questions because I believe in an absolute Good but I also believe — from my Christian background — that human beings are flawed in their nature to perfectly achieve that absolute Good, at least in this world, in this natural life. We can come close — in some instances very close — or we can veer so far away as to seem as if we’re running away from that asymptote. But the human behavior of every individual runs up and down that curve, near and far from that asymptote, unceasingly, in life until death ends that motion.
I believe this to be true in my own life, but I also believe this to be true for everybody, including those who hold power over others. For instance, I hope for a perfectly good CEO of my company, but I am not surprised when that CEO falls short — on some days, a little short, on some days (like the day when the CEO of QuakerState Corporation, my last corporate gig, told us employees of the merger that would eliminate 90% of our jobs in Las Colinas, including mine), a whole helluva lot short. But when the anger, the panic dies down, I breathe deeply and say, “Well, that could’ve gone a lot better, but I’m not surprised. What to do now?” Just because he’s the CEO doesn’t mean he’s suddenly become wiser or more generous or more honest. (For all I know, the Peter Principle could’ve kicked in, and he has risen to the level of his incompetence.) A person doesn’t suddenly become a better person just because he got promoted to a higher level of authority — it takes time and a lot of training. And perhaps the goal is so far, and time is so short for that person, that he or she may never achieve that goal, but, one hopes, that he or she has made choices that will make that behavior point on that curve slide a little bit closer to that goal.