Jun 14, 2011

On "Perfection"

When I was a kid, I had this idea I had to be "perfect." At least part of this was a reaction to a very chaotic home environment. If I were perfect, I'd have control. Of course, defining perfection was a problem. One determination I made at the emboldened age of eight or nine was that perfect people don't cry. Fortunately, I was also philosophical. When I did invariably end up crying over something--at the emboldened age of eight or nine--I put it in perspective and determined that I would try to do better next year.

As polytheists, we acknowledge that our Gods are not perfect. They are amazingly good, awesome, loving, huge, powerful, healing, etc. They fill the deepest recesses of the heart, then surprise you all over again, just when you thought you'd reached the pinnacle of spiritual experience. But They're not perfect.

I think there's a good reason for this. Perfection, when you get down to it, is a static ideal. If you try to picture a "perfect" heaven, you're more likely to envision perfect boredom. We need to learn, to grow. Nothing in nature is truly static. Even the emptiest corner of the Cosmos must surely know the brush of a new quark every ten thousand years or so. The seemingly permanent mountains change. The hardest of stones all have their own stories.

There may be such a thing as temporary perfection. Perhaps I could write the perfect brief: my case citations would be impeccable, my arguments air-tight. Every word would sing off the page, and the judge would of course find in my favor. Yes, I'd have the perfect brief.

And the next day, a case "just like" the one I'd just won would come up. Only, it could never quite be the same case, could it? At least one or two facts would have to be different. Yesterday's brief would no longer be perfect. Not for that case. But you could still use it as a template for the new perfect brief, right? For a while, maybe. Nonetheless, my one true masterpiece of legal writing would become less and less relevant over time. It's a frozen victory, a gnat trapped in amber. Meanwhile, new laws would be enacted, new precedents established.

So much for perfection.

We're blessed in that we don't have perfect Gods. We're blessed in that we cannot be perfect ourselves. This doesn't mean we're not called to high standards and to high ideals. But we move. We grow. And in doing so, we thrive.

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