Flawless

For most of us, practically all our lives, we’ve been told repeatedly how imperfect we are. We may have been admonished for being flawed, shamed for being mere humans. Teachers and pastors surely reminded us that nobody’s perfect. Countless times, to be sure, everyone has been reminded that we are anything but perfect. They may have even gone so far as to tell us that we are unredeemable piles of human refuse. This is at least the impression I got from adults when I was young. We were told that no one was perfect except God. Who could argue with that? God, who made the universe and all its atrocities. God, who created smallpox and puff adders. God, who caused the great flood because, “the Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth…I will wipe from the earth the human race…”

When I was a kid, and I went to Sunday school to clear my mind of all the evil worldly thoughts filling my head, I began to question certain principles. Namely, that no one could be perfect. Believing oneself to be perfect was aligned with the sin of pride. How dare we claim this for ourselves? At the same time, it was impressed upon me the absolute necessity for me to strive for perfection. Grading systems were designed with an ideal to be made manifest. There is a “perfect” GPA. Baseball has a perfect game. A perfect storm. A perfect day. While we’ve been told there is no such thing as perfection, we certainly throw that word around a lot.

With all this shit swirling around like so many toilet bowls, it’s easy to assume that our teachers, parents, middle school bullies, swim coaches, and youth pastors were all right when they emphasized how we are all imperfect. Most of us were told to obey authority; and, therefore there was no reason to assume everyone was wrong. But they were. Not only is it possible to achieve perfection, I believe each that of us is already a perfect being. Before you start enumerating my many flaws, let’s first deal with that pesky issue of defining perfection. What does perfect actually mean?

The Greek philosopher Plato maintained that not only is our world imperfect, but it may not even exist. Plato held that the constantly changing world was only a copy of the ideal, the perfect and constant vision only attainable in human thought. A perfect circle, for example, might be conceptualized, but could never be physically produced. Indeed, even modern machines can render a near-perfect circle, but our even more advanced measuring equipment may now detect the smallest imperfections. And so it continues. In our minds, we can identify the ideal, but is that ideal based on something we were taught, or is it a universal, collective vision of perfection?

snowflake

For many of us, we have an idea of what perfection means. For example, we like to point to snowflakes as perfect units. But notice something about these? They’re all different. In fact, every snowflake is unique, each one different from the next. If a snowflake is perfect, then all of them are. But any difference, according to Plato, would in essence be an imperfection. But what is the ideal snowflake? How could there be just one perfect one? How could all copies of the ideal be considered less than perfect? In the world where we live, we are not afforded the opportunity to contemplate the ideal, the snowflake Form; we only have the real, the physical. All snowflakes, therefore, are perfect. And so is every potato, for that matter.

As for me, I know I am more complicated an organism than a potato. But I see wonders every time I check in on things around the world. For instance, there are sea creatures that do everything from change color to emit light, to name a few. Human beings might appear less significant in the grand scheme of things, if we’re going for existential despondency. I mean, we’re more than just animals, even though we are classified as primates who have simply evolved. The very act of my writing this indicates that there’s something more going on. Therefore, here we are, each of us, contemplating our existence and our place in the universe. Meanwhile, we’re still basically controlled by our basic urges and needs: sleep, eat, fuck, survive.

Now that I’ve established that I am ordinary, it makes my perfection argument a little easier. If we were as simple as dogs or grasshoppers or potatoes, how could anyone dispute that any of us were anything less than perfect? Naturally, there are those who might judge. The Westminster Kennel Club holds an annual event to decide which dog breed is superior to the rest. This is highly subjective, and the results should never be construed as to mean there is any one dog that is perfect. Really, aren’t they all?

The thing about perfection – a human preoccupation – is that there really is no such thing. What I mean by that is there is no one ideal of any item, person, or situation in our plane of existence. That “perfect storm” we keep hearing about is actually a confluence of forces or elements crossing a threshold, arbitrary perhaps, where conditions may be just right for the worst case scenario. This term is almost always used as a metaphor to describe some social or work situation where things go horribly wrong. Shit happens, but I wouldn’t call this perfection.

Perfection is kind of an illusion. Except that here I am trying to convince you that we are all perfect beings. What makes this impossible to accept is that we’ve been told how imperfect we are our entire lives. But I maintain that we are all perfect and essential. We’re like cogs in the intricate machinery of the universe, to use a hyperbole here for a moment (if Plato can do it, well…) Perhaps we are perfect in that we are precisely where we need to be for the cosmic algorithm to function. What if we are all exactly where we’re supposed to be? Can’t we be perfect in the place we find ourselves?

I admit, my previous notions of perfection were rooted in that latent Catholic school guilt and self loathing, where we lesser things cannot possibly approach perfection. One of my instructors was wrong about many things; it stands to reason he was wrong about this, too. Maybe I am perfect. I’m not without fault, but my perfection may lie in the niche I fill. For my wife, I am exactly what she needs, or so she tells me sometimes. Am I the perfect husband? Perhaps for her. I might be the perfect employee for certain needs of my company. I might have been the perfect student, not because I made A’s, but perhaps because I made my teachers think or because I made them work harder. I may never know. But my point is that I believe we are all perfect beings.

In a sense, we are more than all the cells and plasma and elements in our bodies, the electrical impulses between our nerve endings, or the chemistry in our brains. We’re beyond the body and the physiology of the human animal. There’s no proof that we have souls or spirits, but there’s a lot we have not discovered about ourselves. There might be something perfect within all of us. Maybe our struggle, our suffering, is simply our souls colliding with our human instincts and emotional pressures. Is music a transport vessel for the soul? Is art another? What about acting or stand-up comedy? Or writing?

In claiming my perfection I am not placing myself above other people. On the contrary, I make no statement to that effect. I am not better than anyone else. But that’s not what I mean by perfection. I don’t mean to say I am flawless. But as Confucius said, it is better to be a diamond with a flaw than to be a pebble without one. In other words, being perfect may not be what it’s cracked up to be. Perfection might equal banality in that scenario where the world is populated with pebbles, or potatoes, or snowflakes. One’s  perfect state might be typified by his or her nonconformity or eccentricity. Where there is a “perfect” field of snow, the perfection we possess might be the footprint that provides dimension. What was seen as a flaw is now perceived as absolutely essential. In a word, it’s perfect.

 

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Douchebag City

Sometimes it’s great being a man. One of my favorite aspects of masculinity is that we guys are constantly evolving – that is, if you’re paying attention and giving half an effort. You see, some of us actually give a shit. I warn my nieces that they need to avoid any serious relationships until about age 36. I speak on behalf of all men that we’re complete idiots at least until age 36, often much later. And there are guys who never grow up. It’s okay to be in touch with your “inner child”; I still like breakfast for dinner once in a while. But we all need to grow up, and men need to act a certain way.

This does not have to mean that guys are supposed to be interested only in sports and swimsuit editions and Barbecues. That’s not what being a man is anyway. You can be into football and be a complete douchebag. You are not a man if you don’t treat people with respect even though you have testicles.

A man does not resort to violence in response to a dispute or to resolve conflict. A man does not verbally assault someone or bully him to make himself feel superior. A man does not allow someone to suffer by doing nothing. A man rinses off his fucking plate after dinner. Hell, a man cooks!

It’s good being a guy, but you have to do it right. Men don’t have babies, and we don’t have cramps. Men are paid more for than women for doing the same job. There are a lot of things we should be mindful of, but we aren’t, and all around the world, it continues. Things could be better.

I was spending some quality male-bonding time with a friend of mine, and he told me about some health concerns he has. He said, “maybe I should see a doctor,” to which I replied that my wife would agree. Men are not really good at taking care of themselves. I think pride is to blame for a lot of this. It’s hard to explain, probably because we are still using our hind-brains to make decisions. Admitting that he is not invincible means a man can’t continue to hold his present place in neolithic society. The realities of human evolution are that, behaviorally, we have outpaced our physical adaptations. While we are not living in caves, we still have that part of our brains that allows us to be constantly on alert, whether it’s a predator or a burglar. Men evolved to be something they needed to be for the last millions years, but the rapid advancement of human society in the last 15,000 years took us all by surprise.

What men are needed to be now is still changing. Fifty years ago, women could not establish credit accounts or open loans on their own. Men had to cosign for their wives. Wives were expected to sacrifice their own dreams and wishes for the sake of their husbands. It wasn’t until the late 60’s that things started to change. But change takes time, even though we’re talking about radical, fundamental changes in the ways that men and women interact. By contrast to the 15,000 years that preceded it, the last half of the 20th century was remarkable.

Back to my point: men are above their instincts. Men are able to think and be thoughtful, to be kind and honest, and to be honorable. Children have to be taught to use words to convey their thoughts and resolve conflict. Men should know this. If you still use your fists to settle a dispute, you are not a man. You are a douchebag, a lesser organism. Unfortunately, men can still act like idiots.

I wish that young women would pay attention. I wish that young men would stop being stupid for just one minute. I wish that the cycle could be broken. The answer is for fathers to be good to their children. Children will learn by example, but we continue to think they listen to our words. They are intelligent, and they develop their social skills early, but they do this by imitating our behavior. If fathers are acting like morons or being horrible people, their kids will grow up to be horrible people, too. If you get drunk and slap your wife around, do not be surprised if your kids do the exact same thing when they get older. You are responsible. You must show them the way. You are the man.