In the beginning post for this week’s ‘He Says, She Says…’ post we offered two differing quotes from Seth and from Gradius and Ragon on the subject of perfection. It’s an interesting subject to me, and I’m certainly not alone in this. Even Lexus has as it’s slogan, “The Pursuit of Perfection“.
From Seth’s perspective, perfection implies an end point beyond which no growth is possible. Perfection is therefore impossible, since no such state exists. The counterpoint offered by Gradius and Ragon is that perfection exists in every moment. Each moment then is perfectly itself.
A litte while back I wrote the following:
As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, it seems interesting to me that so many people see perfectionism as something to be controlled, some sort of disease. This mediocre world of ours. I see perfection in so many things: the opening of a flower, the grace of a deer, the soundless flight of an owl at night. I see perfection in a sunrise and the beauty of love.
Therefore, I do not think it is wrong to seek perfection in one’s life – the important thing is not to chastise one’s self for not achieving that goal.
That was fifteen years ago; in some ways it seems I’ve been chasing perfection my entire life… Well, until recently, anyway. I finally caught up.
When I was younger excellence was encouraged in my family. For me, the pursuit and achievment of excellence came to be associated with ‘value’ – something I wrote about in a previous ‘He Says, She Says…‘ post. Having started down that road, I just kept following it. As I wrote above, I saw perfection as an unachievable goal, something that could be sought but never obtained. No matter how far I traveled nor how high I reached, perfection was destined to be forever out of my grasp. However the topic for this post isn’t ‘Pursuing Perfection‘, it’s ‘Embracing Perfection‘.
The change for me began a few months back. I always used to say (to myself and others) that I didn’t know what my potential was, but I was certain it was more than I could know it to be. I based this on the idea that in any given moment I was more than I once thought I could be, and so it was logical that this pattern continue. Like a hyperbola, however, I would never reach the end.
As I was thinking this one day it came to me that in holding such a view I continued to see myself as ‘unfinished’, not yet living up to my own undefined potential. Following that was a course correction of sorts, a message that I am not simply the unrealized potential of what I might someday become. In fact, in every moment I am completely myself. It follows then that in every moment I am the perfection of who I am in this moment. Now, none of this implies a completion, an end point. I continue to grow, shift and change. I always will. The difference lies in my perception of who I am. Before, I saw myself always as being ‘less than’ I could be, and so I was always pushing myself forward, bringing myself closer and closer to an imagined goal that I believed could never be obtained.
There was more, however, and it was something that came to me only recently. I was thinking about embracing perfection within my life and what that would mean to me when I was reminded of my own Catholic upbringing. From a Christian perspective, ‘perfection’ is attained when one reaches heaven. The only problem with this concept is that one must die first. All of a sudden it made sense to me. Seeing perfection as a place of completion was connected to a belief from my early childhood that being ‘perfect’ mean I would have to die. Now I have no particular fear of death – my own spiritual understandings have evolved beyond that – but this particular belief was associated with an earlier time in my lif when I had not yet reached this understanding. Beliefs can be curious things; I’ve explored enough of them over the years to understand that much. So, at the same time I was seeking perfection within myself, partly as a way of achieving ‘value’, partly as a goal that could never be reached, but at the same time I had a belief that I didn’t want to reach perfection because it would mean the end of ‘me’.
Actually, this reminded me of part of an essay by Kirsten Fox called, “The Truth About Love” (well worth reading, BTW):
“Fear is resisting Love. The other day I felt a huge wave of energy flood over me and I felt a great deal of fear – and so I interpreted the energy as a wave of fear at first, but I was wrong. It was a wave of Love, and I was afraid of it. This is part of the reason I got so interested in uncovering my beliefs about Love because it seemed so RIDICULOUS that I should be afraid of Love. And who was the “I” that was feeling this fear and why?
This is where my fanciful notions about Love came into play. First, the phrase “Lost in Love” popped into my awareness, followed quickly by the word, “Nirvana.” And the definition for Nirvana? “The state of absolute blessedness, characterized by release from the cycle of reincarnations and attained through the extinction of the self.” EXTINCTION OF THE SELF?????? I felt like a character in Monty Python’s Holy Grail yelling, “Run Away! Run Away!” With this kind of belief about Love, there’s no WONDER I felt fear when that wave that washed over me.
When I looked inside, I understood that this definition of Nirvana or Love was based on a completely valid but severely limited (from my perspective) beliefs based on an Either-Or understanding. You could either be YOU or be ONE WITH LOVE (or the universe, etc.). I could be Kristen Fox with all my personality quirks OR I could release my individuality and merge with the Love and Creative Power of ATI. The fear I felt was my own resistance to Love based on a misconception that it was crucial to my own survival to do so. The implied threat was that if I stopped resisting, stopped feeling fear, that “I” would, the minute I stopped fighting and struggling, simply C-E-A-S-E T-O E-X-I-S-T.”
Once I realized what I was feeling I was able to let it go. In embracing the perfection of myself I allow myself to honour who I have been, who I have become, and who I am yet to be. To me, it’s like the difference between walking through the woods and walking in the woods.
I’ve invested large portions of my life being in the woods, and the differences between those two intentions are readily apparent to me. I see many people, most people actually, walking through the woods. They have a destination and their focus is on arriving at that destination. They’re not present, they’re driven forward. They experience life the same way. Walking in the woods is quite different. When I go to the woods by myself, it’s a dance. I am present in every moment. I may have a specific destination, but that’s not the point of being there. I am there to experience. By being present I open myself up to what’s present there with me – tracks, plants, other animals, clouds, winds, scents, sounds… I find that I learn more, discover more in this way than I do when I narrow my focus to some specific task or idea. It’s taken me some time to get here, but I’m learning to apply these ideas to my life as a whole.
I still seek knowledge, fulfillment, perfection, but I’m no longer pursuing it with the same dogged determination I once did.
Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote:
“Happiness in this world, when it comes, comes incidentally. Make it the object of pursuit, and it leads us a wild-goose chase, and is never attained. Follow some other object, and very possibly we may find that we have caught happiness without dreaming of it. “
“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”
Sounds like perfection to me.
Follow this link to read Marcia’s View.