Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Redefining Perfection

"When you aim for perfection, you discover it's a moving target." ~ Geoffrey F. Fisher

Last night, while I was on the phone with my mother-in-law, our conversation led to a discussion on the concept of perfection.

According to the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary the following are two definitions for perfection: 1) the quality or state of being perfect: as a: freedom from fault or defect : b: the quality or state of being saintly; 2) a: an exemplification of supreme excellence b: an unsurpassable degree of accuracy or excellence.

Nice definitions, but if we look at them closely, they are not definitions of perfection per se, but definitions built around individual perceptions of it.

1a- "Freedom from fault or defect – what exactly does that mean? Who is perfect enough to decide what is faulty or defective? Our perception spins from what we have been taught, and it rarely reflects reality; it merely shows what we consider right or wrong in base of what we have learned. Even when we are sure to be "thinking with our own head," our perception of the world around us is filtered through our senses, which are limited and faulty at best.

1b- "The quality or state of being saintly" – What constitutes a saint? Is it someone who spends their life doing for others? Most likely it is someone who’s considered good when measured against our societal scales, which are created by men and are not perfect.

2a- "An exemplification of supreme excellence" – The only supreme excellence is that of a higher intelligence – no man, or anything created by man, can perceive the full concept of it. It equates fitting the waters of an ocean inside a bottle – only a tiny part of it can go in.

2b- "an unsurpassable degree of accuracy or excellence." – Big words, but again, who decides what is accurate and excellent? What parameters do we use to decide if something is completely correct?

Although amazing milestones have been conquered, even science is not perfect, and it is baffled by Nature quite consistently. Just like a virus, perfection cannot be isolated – it mutates and assumes different identities depending on what trends it contends with, and the perception of it changes from individual to individual. That explains why some people can see something or someone and think they are perfect and wonderful, while some others can look at the same and see only faults and defects.

This distinction applies to many concepts – good and evil, beauty and/or lack of it, religion, politics; the list could be endless. Our perception is largely affected by our environment and the rules we have grown to identify with. There is no such thing as a perfect human or a perfect thing – the sooner we realize this simple reality, the closer we will be to understanding that being unique is perfect in itself.