Perfectionism: example or warning?


We all have them. They don’t know we exist, but they spared us more than a few thoughts and words. The better ones, anyway. In our finer moments we believe they died for us, to make our life easier, to guide us. In part they did, but mainly they followed the only path that allows a life free of bad conscience in the face of hard (or dangerous) decisions, in the interest of self-preservation, because afterall they were only human, all too human. If God is anthropomorphized, anything we can possibly imagine, He is able to do to us, so we better do as He says if we want to avoid the whip and gain reward. Find a prophet, sage, guru, saint. Follow closely. Until they make those decisions that shape history and cause uproar amongst their followers, and in the process all involved suffer in ways the gentle soul does not wish to contemplate.

In war, your enemy must be killed lest he kills you, but who’s the aggressor and who’s the victim? Both sides claim to be the latter because to identify as the offensive party would be to admit selfishness and arrogance. “To hell with them. They did X, and X is forbidden,” everyone agrees secretly at base camp.

If at this point you cower, or go into denial, it’s too late. You’re invested in your current struggle and the possible rewards it may bring. A mountain of shit has piled up and now its too close to the sun. If you’re feeling any great guilt or regret or both, you retract your steps and renounce your former glories to the point where you wouldn’t disturb an anthill, and then your enemies multiply by the thousands because you’re exposed to anything with tooth or claw.

Everyday mundane life works on the same principles, though you only ever have yourself to blame, the enemy is your own evil twin (Satan, The Accursed, Baphomet, Bigcock Beelzebub), and the battle is to simplify everything and simply do good. If you try to shift context, you just slip into the abstract: my problem is not this, it’s that. Oh wait, not this either. Neti, neti. This is a fine strategy, until you find all meaning in your life has evaporated.

Instead of facing new challenges, you find reasons why those challenges won’t get you what you truly want. And what exactly is that? That’s right, you can’t make it concrete. Something about living free and dreaming big, but not really doing anything decisive until you sort of feel your way into a position that may be where you want to continue from, maybe. A cooler career? But that probably means dealing with people in power, their huge egos, and their ridiculous opinions. Why so judgemental? How about a spouse and family? Well, first I have to do ABC, make more money, be better at dating, widen my social circle and blah blah blah. And all this so you can meet that idealised other from a Hollywood romantic comedy, when in fact it’s as simple as meeting a friend who is flawed like yourself.

Then how about just working on yourself, your selfishness, your lust, your ego? Nope, that’s depressing (especially the lust part am I right?). You may finally tell yourself, if I just take this one, big, dream-chasing, life-altering step in my life, it will all kinda work itself out.

But few ever take that step, all the while slipping into peaceful denial of history, the future, and eternal meaning. Sounds good, because we can’t think of all that eternity shit _and_ struggle with the bastards who would control us, make us feel small, or otherwise make our lives difficult. And keep relations with your friends on good terms, and be a leader for your family, and keep doing your shift for your community, and keep your hobbies going in an attempt to be a well rounded human being. And, and, and? Every dog has its day, but one thing at a time, surely. Then we fall back full circle to the dream.

But then the purity people tell us no sex outside of wedlock and no drugs and no alcohol and no usury, because this is the road of the damned. You can hold the bus, because we did the first three in high school already, and we’re definitely still doing the last one. “Please just give me Buddhism or Taoism or Atheism where I can do whatever I want then meditate about how cool I am and how deeply connected I am to the Universal Consciousness. Then give me another bong hit.”

The perfectionism of our ancestors is a cry that echoes in eternity and disturbs our hindbrains to the point that we pray and pray for something we later realize is unachievable in worldly terms. Could the answer be a simple shrug and move on? Or is that the biggest curse of all? To deny a fight in favour of illusions and distractions that take years and decades to unravel?

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