“I cling to my imperfection,
as the very essence of my being.”
as the very essence of my being.”
—Anatole France, French poet and novelist
This will not come as a surprise to most persons: we reside in an imperfect world, and we are all imperfect beings. Now, anyone who is slightly aware of current events and who reads or views the news will find this statement not only self-evident, but also not worth debating. Such is true, but that knowledge does not prevent many individuals from acting and living otherwise.
Allow me to elaborate. Some individuals, notably those with the means and resources, can purchase a certain level of security and thereby insulate themselves from much of the messiness and misery of life common to most of the world. In some ways, they are attempting to limit any potential bad thing that can happen, which are numerous and many. Such is understandable; but one can only control certain things that are known and predictable, which is limited by our knowledge, particularly of unpredictable events.
Even so, such individuals, in their desire for security and predictability, act as if they are residing in a perfect world," one of their own design and making. This might not be a delusion, but it's certain an illusion; I think of the sad case of the singer Michael Jackson and his desire to live like Peter Pan in Neverland. Even so, he`s not alone in his desire, and there are many other examples of persons with lesser means who wear similar eccentricities or who hold similar desires for seclusion from society
While it's true that money can purchase a certain level of freedom from misery, and money can purchase a level of comfort, and money can insulate you from much of the ugliness and misery of the outside world that one might find objectionable, it cannot, however, build a "perfect" world. Doing so also leads to odd and unnatural behaviors; if you are wealthy it's called eccentric; if poor weird. The outcomes, nevertheless, remain the same.
One of such unnatural behaviors is that individuals striving after "perfection" sit in judgment, like a monarch on the throne, of those who behaviors, abilities, standard of living and all such things that money can purchase, do not meet their own. Such standards are subjective and often superficial, if not personal, but the person striving for perfection often learns and displays undesirable human behavious—ultimately, it cuts off the individual from human contact. The basis of modern human civilization is to not always act as completely independent agents but as individuals who are also social agents. Striving for perfection negates or certainly restricts such an ability, or more so, an action.
This might not at first seem obvious, but it is a human by-product of having faith in perfection as an achievable goal. Thus, it's not surprising that throughout history certain charismatic leaders raise the idea of building a better, more perfect society—a Utopia , if you will. Yet, there are no utopias, no real places where happily and agreeably individuals live together in harmony and peace; there are only places where humans rub together as individuals living in nation-states, sometimes in conflict, but often not. The idea of building utopia, which is a model of perfection, is a bad one; it always leads to totalitarianism and a loss of autonomy and liberty. Conformity is its ultimate goal
Once you understand, cognitively, that perfection is an unattainable philosophical or abstract standard, you can more easily live in this world—the only one that we know with certainty that exists. Bettering the lot of humanity is not the same as striving for a perfect world; the latter carries the weight of judgement and destruction, whereas the former lifts the individual and society out of the miry pit.
A version of this article was published at Perry J Greenbaum (December 5, 2012)