The Desire For Perfection

Inside each of us there is a kind of experiential measuring stick, a sense of the disparity between how we actually live and the “ideals” we hold so dear. Some of these ideals are part and parcel of our own biology and essence. Some are drummed into us from the outside by family, friends, educators, society, and culture. And some may even come from something higher in ourselves. Whatever their source, however, these ideals are all mixed together with my actual experiences and perceptions and memories in this rather messy being that I call myself.

For most of us, even a momentary glimpse of the disparity between our ideals and how we actually live arouses the desire for perfection, the desire to somehow alter and perfect those aspects of ourselves and our lives that we believe would make us better, more desirable, more creative, or more enlightened people. Whether it is a desire for success, a desire for happiness, a desire for spiritual development, or some mixture of all of these, our desire for perfection gives us a potent sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. It sheds a kind of magical light on everything that we think, feel, and do. It becomes the springboard for many of our actions and re-actions, a springboard for becoming what we think we should be.

As one begins to look at one’s inner and outer worlds from the perspective of “the desire for perfection,” one begins to see just how much of our lives, and the life of society itself, is bound up in this quest. How many relationships, how many businesses, how many wars, how many religions, how many cults, have been founded on this desire?

If one thinks carefully about the desire for perfection, however, one sees that with this desire comes a particular relationship to time, a relationship in which “tomorrow” and what I believe I am lacking assumes greater importance than today and what I already have. If only I had more time, more money, a better job, a better relationship, more peace, more and higher spiritual experiences, and so on and so forth. There is obviously nothing wrong with wanting these things as long as I am able to remember that the miracle of life is my very existence right now, and that this nowness is forever complete. There is nothing else that is needed–except?

In this regard, one might be tempted, as many serious teachers have been, to pit the desire for being against the desire for becoming, for becoming more perfect. One might be tempted to say that being, especially being in the moment, is all that really matters. That all the rest is somehow a distraction or even an illusion. Often these teachers are unaware that they have simply created a new goal, a new state of perfection, to which we should all aspire. “Be here, now,” the pundits tell us. So what could be a natural, normal experience, now becomes an imperative, a goal, a new state of perfection. Now we measure each other by our presence, or lack of it.

No, what is needed is not a new definition of perfection. What is needed is simply the honest observation of what we actually are at any moment, of our mental and emotional attitudes, our contradictions, our confusion, our psychological messiness, our desires, our passions, our Gods and demons–in short, our humanness. What is needed is a global perception, a perception of our real motives and impulses. There is no perfection in this, and no imperfection. There is only conscious love. The love that welcomes whatever is seen and sensed and felt and heard because these functional activities are what the human dimension of human beings are all about. It is this non-egoistic love of ourselves as we are, as we respond or don’t respond to the demands of this situation, that quite naturally takes us to the next situation with its new demands and new responses and new perceptions. And who knows? Perhaps if we were to live this way, willing to experience fully the living truth, however comfortable or uncomfortable, that is being revealed right now, the perfection that we all seek in our heart of hearts, the real ground of our own being, might suddenly appear.

Copyright 2007-2017 by Dennis Lewis.

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