The Myth of the Perfect
I’m not perfect. Surprised? God I hope not. Really, who is?
Sure no one’s perfect, but another thing that applies to no one is the ability to fit into a nice, little pre-made, politically correct, made-for-TV box.
The past week has been rife with commentary online and on the news about the death of Nelson Mandela. The story you get on Mandela’s life depends on where you look; mainstream media praise him as a visionary leader, while conservative “watchdogs” play him up as nothing more than another socialist crazypants who shouldn’t be given the time of day.
In reality, the real nature of Mandela is somewhere in the middle, but why do we almost always prefer the extremes?
We normal humans don’t fit into a box, so it’s reasonable to believe that Mandela doesn’t either.
Another example: This college football season has produced in part what some think are the true colors of Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini. Miley Cyrus made a new name for herself (unfortunately) earlier this year, and just recently Rebecca Black came back for round two of being raked across YouTube’s coals.
It’s way too easy for us to sit in a coffee shop and read stories about celebrities and only consider the sliver of a person’s reality that’s on the front page of CNN or TMZ. Because we don’t know the person, their actions in the public eye are all there is to go on, so our assessment sits solely on the slim shoulders of that (often ill-researched and overly-spun) news snippet.
I have a theory, and feel free to disagree with me, and it’s that we, as human beings, are always looking for ways to find perfection, to find complete contentment, to find real happiness. In the courses we take, in the sports we play, in the new tech we buy, in the jobs we work, even in the families we help create, perfection, happiness, rest is what we constantly are in search of.
For some reason, too, we look to those in high places as examples of what happiness is supposed to be. If I had the cars, the money, the fame, then I’d be happy, people so often tell themselves.
The search for happiness, I believe, is indeed our ultimate goal on earth. Our hearts are restless, so the first part of the saying by Augustine went, so we constantly mill about our world trying to calm those damn hearts.
It would seem that, in 2013, everything that could ever make us happy is at our fingertips. Almost every bit of information the world has to offer can come through a 4-inch screen in our pockets. Education is more accessible than it ever has been. We live in a country that allows us to pursue whatever profession we desire, and heck, anyone can get hitched to anyone these days (as far as the state is concerned, mind you).
If all these things exist and are within our grasp, why isn’t everyone happy? Why haven’t we been able to perfect ourselves? Why, if we have all these options, are people still so restless despite having every man-made tool imaginable to “fix” the discontent?
Even when we pile a million little things into our lives to help the search for happy, all that ends up happening is an inability to operate as ourselves. We tend to just react instead of think, and we turn ourselves into robots going about a daily duty fulfilling each one of those commitments. Sounds like the opposite of rest to me.
The problem with this method of searching is that no thing originating from the hands of man will ever make us truly happy. Logic itself can tell us that: Humans aren’t perfect; man makes many of the things in the world; therefore the things themselves will always be imperfect.
What does that leave us? Well, that means that the only path to perfection and happiness lies in something that hasn’t originated from the hands of men, and something that, in itself is unable to die. Something that was here before any of us ever was, and will exist far beyond our departure from this earth.
That seems to leave earthly things like the forest or the ocean, both of which have far longer lifespans than us people. But even the forest or the ocean are fleeting things from a human perspective. The forest and the ocean, in and of themselves, are still just things, unable to have any transcendent power over the human condition.
What we need is a thing that isn’t a thing. Something, or Someone, that provides a meaning and a context to all other things–something eternal.
See, the second half of that line from Augustine read like this, ”…until they rest in Thee.”
We humans, in one way or another, believe in the Myth of the Perfect, that someday someone will create the Fountain of Youth, the magic formula that will make all things right in ourselves and in the world. But what we don’t realize is that the Solution has been within our grasp our whole lives.
We only need allow ourselves to rest enough to discover it.
I’m on Facebook, too…