eThoughts : Perfection

Speaking about psychology running through it: How is it that humans get so caught up in either the pursuit or avoidance of perfection?

I find it interesting that we base much of our worthiness on perfection. We are less than because we are not royalty, or president, or stars, or billionaires, or parents, or married, or highly educated, or erudite. We are less than because of gender, or skin color, or weight, or height, or physical looks, or physical ability. And if all else fails to convince us, we are less than because we are not God.

It certainly can be handy to be less than perfect. As psychologist Alfred Adler believed, it is a blessing when we are inferior, as we now have room to grow. Therein lies some hope. But being less than perfect also presents us with an excuse for failing or not even trying.

I’m not suggesting the pursuit of perfection is inherently stupid, it is not. However, the pursuit of perfection is one thing, but perfection as an ultimate end is just simply delusional. All things are dynamic, however fast or slow they might emit or attract, so perfection is then dynamic. Point of view matters, and it would serve us well to not confuse our lack of perfection with being inherently flawed or less than. The point of perfection is to become so good and so deep at what we do that to others it appears perfect, though to us, we see ample room for improvement.

Nice. Now we have proficiency and humility. And we have ever “higher” goals. The pursuit and understanding of perfection is not about achieving a static state, that kind of thinking only develops neurotic minds and behaviors—just how perfect is that?

Let’s take terminal degrees (nice wording don’t you think?). A Ph.D. is a “terminal” degree—as is any doctorate—in that no “higher” educational degree is possible. One would have to be sorely misguided (and clearly less than perfect) to think that a Ph.D. has obtained some holier-than-thou status. Nope, they have gathered some tools of the educational trade—a terminal degree. While such degree recipients have likely practiced aspects of their discipline more than those without practice, they’re hardly perfect in their own field. And the point? Just because someone has received a terminal degree doesn’t mean they’ve arrived. Graduations are called commencement for a reason—it’s time to commence.

How about the pursuit of soul mates, or soul mate if you will—that perfect being for us and us for them? Say what? The ability to be around someone who contributes to better, deeper breathing is not the same as nothing left to do short of pure enjoyment sans the hassle. Gee, even the definitions of enjoyment and hassle are subject to perspective. Nope, it’s a ballpark issue, or maybe even the infield of the ballpark, but there is a lot of work and a lot of noticing imperfections. Like the achievement of perfection I suggested above, the couple will know the issues between them, even if their relationship looks perfect to outside observers. Finding, or working to create, a soul mate is like getting a terminal degree—one can now commence with their intimate knowledge and passion and commitment. That commencement never stops, even if it rests for awhile.

I might as well stampede to the headwaters in pursuit of this thought: How about pursuing favor with God?

I’ve written about my objections in asking for God’s blessing in a previous post—we’re already blessed, let’s instead ask for our understanding that we are. For this bit, let’s pursue being saved, which is a kind of perfection as the implication is that by being saved, we are not going to hell.

I suggest the same issue with blessings, we already are saved, it is up to us to recognize it. Okay, it is more than recognizing it, we must live it. What kind of God—a perfect as well as dynamic being I’m assuming—would have a creation that wasn’t also perfect and dynamic? I’m not saying that everything we do is already perfect just because we’re all God’s children, I’m saying that from any given position, we can all find a path “home.” That can take some work for sure, but the issue is not eternal damnation, it is that some of us take the long way “home” in our emulating God’s love and beauty.

Whatever our pursuit, perfection is not an end result, it is not even a result, it is a dynamic state of being in which we are challenged to continue recognizing the discipline it takes to obtain freedom. Perfection is a dynamic state in which we are challenged to recognize love and beauty as it changes around us.

I’m paraphrasing, but there were a couple of lines in the movie The Last Samurai (oh no, does Tom Cruise come up again?) that bears mentioning in the context of perfection. I believe it was Ken Watanabe that played the Shogun and the leader of the last of the Samurai. At one point he told Cruise’s character that a life spent searching for the perfect cherry blossom was a life worth living. However, near the moment of his death as a flurry of cherry blossoms blew across his visual field, he realized a deeper perfection—that all cherry blossoms are perfect.

Hmmm. That seems like some wisdom to keep in mind the next time we want to arrange perfection—especially when it comes to people.

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