Monday, December 12, 2011

The Tyranny of the Perfect

I'm gonna go ahead and let you off the hook by telling you right up front that you're gonna fail. It doesn't matter what, exactly, you're trying to do... you are going to crash and burn.

I suppose this is the place where you expect me to give you some sort of phoenix metaphor about how "from the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success;" but I'm not, because I can't promise  you'll recover from your failure - no one can. All I can guarantee is failure.

There is a flip side to it, sure - Faith, Hope, Love, And Cetera - but I want to focus on the failure for a moment because the truth of it is that anything good that ever happens in your life happens within the context of good old-fashioned suck; and anyone who paints you a hazy picture of some alternate life of cotton-candy cottages where nothing bad ever happens - and then has the audacity to call that reality - well, that person is a dirty shill. Or, to put it in the words of everybody's favorite pirate, Westley, "Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something."

Sure, we're all attracted to the idea of living in a world where things go exactly right for us, every time - but for this life, the one we live in right now,  we're just going to have to accept that perfection ain't doable and move on. You are going to fail - probably even badly - from time to time. But that's okay, because you're in good company - like, say, everybody.

This is, I think, especially important when it gets down to morals, or virtue, or whatever you want to call it when you try to be good all the time. I'm here to tell you that it can't be done. Pretending that it can will only pile up guilt and shame and fear, and you weren't made for those things. You were made for love, and hope, and self-control, and power. Not the illusion of self-control and power that comes from suppressing the free will of others, but the kind that frees you to really, really LIVE, with love.

By all means, please try to live a moral life. Do it. The world can be a pretty cruel place, and it's usually the immoral decisions of people just like you that make it so. But really, you need to start chilling out and giving yourself a bit of a break.

The next time someone tries in any way to sell you on moral perfection, acknowledge it as a fantasy. Understand that they are trying to manipulate you for their own nasty purposes, or perhaps just because they've bought into it themselves and are too bound up in fear to recognize it as a lie - I don't know. But I do know that one of the greatest moral choices you can make in life is to recognize that perfection is an impossibly cruel taskmaster, because you will never get there. Your failure's a foregone conclusion, so what matters most is if you're willing to acknowledge that and move on - to pick up the pieces of your good intentions and stumble forward with the faith and hope that there is something bigger than your ability to be perfect. That there is LOVE: awesome, perfect, personal love.

Jump into it. Share it around. You'll be surprised at how pleasant things can get when everybody isn't trying so hard to make things pleasant all the time.

4 comments:

  1. I could never understand why people loved those Thomas Kinkade paintings so much, but also couldn't explain why I DIDN'T like them. This sums it up very well.

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  2. Thanks for sayin' ... and if you click on that "Kinkade" and blow it up, you'll see a few little additions of my own. I actually appropriated a painting of Kinkade's and put some bloody violence and so on into it. ( see link: https://picasaweb.google.com/101595353554106720916/JoshuaLawrenceArt#5543289825754796658 )

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  3. Yes, I have already clicked on your "Kinkade" a number of times and seen your little additions.

    Bloody violence, eh? I tried copying and pasting that link, but it didn't work. Would love to see it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The link was just to the detail in my picasa art gallery, already linked on the sidebar below my little bio thingy.

    ReplyDelete

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