True Grit

I was listening to an interesting podcast about grit, based on the research by Angela Duckworth.  If you prefer to read a shorter article about her work you can do that here, or listen to a short TED talk she gave about it you can do that here.  I’ve talked before about the value of perseverance and why it is beneficial in my series about what I think makes a good human.  In that series I tried to also perhaps point out where these strengths could have negative results.  How we can perhaps go too far, or how their might be darker side to it.  The podcast brought this idea into the forefront of my thoughts again because they talked about how grit might actually be drawback if we continue to try at something that we are not likely to achieve we waste our energy.  We can become obsessive, and not know when to give up.  This is more commonly known as stubbornness.  What was really interesting to me was what they said in the final few seconds of the podcast which was that grit and stubbornness are really just the same thing, given different names based on the outcome achieved.  If one is successful they had grit, if one was not, they were stubborn.

Sadly,  failure is often dependent on effort too!

This then gave rise to a couple of additional thoughts.  One was to wonder what other qualities fall under a similar category, where they are one in the same just depending on the outcome? The second thought I had was a bit of sadness about how easily our strengths can become our weaknesses.  But then I thought, perhaps this idea we have about strengths vs. weaknesses is really an incorrect way to look at ourselves.  Because we can certainly say that a world in which no person had any grit would be a much different one and one that I believe would be much sadder and without flavor.  So we absolutely need these qualities and the consequence of such virtues is simply that we will not always succeed.  And so we find ourselves, once again, on the topic of risk.

This one is pretty true. However someone with a natural extra helping of strength, skill, intelligence often has more potential. Damn you Neil Degrasse Tyson!

When we see that star athlete, or master carpenter at work, or a genius who has invented some technological marvel, it can be easy to be an awe, and focus on a talent that must lie within giving them an almost divine like quality in their ability.  We see the end result and we don’t think about the years of practice. We often see the person who made it to the Olympics or the professional league, but not all the ones who failed to make it.  We don’t see the less than impressive or faulty works the carpenter built before he mastered his techniques.  We don’t see all the failed ideas and failed attempts associated with the process of creation and invention. History remembers the genius of Newton’s discovery in regards to gravitation, calculus, and his laws of motion.  Few except those who really study his life know how obsessed he was in the field of alchemy, which was of course a big waste of time.  Few know how much time he wasted searching for hidden patterns in scripture.  Also, as the podcast points out that many people don’t enjoy the periods of grim determination and practice it takes to perfect their craft, whatever it may be, at least not in the typical definition of fun.  It’s clear that idea that we may master something or have success can drive us forward through the less than savory hours and hours of effort it takes to achieve one’s goals, but in the end we don’t know whether our goals will be achieved.  So grit also means that we are taking a risk, because we could spend all that time and energy, and still fail in the end.

Unless quitting gives you more time to pursue something else that you are far better at and thus a higher chance of success!

Of course the easy answer is to say, focus on the journey, nobody is perfect.  I’d like to believe I am that type of person as I often tout the value of perseverance when I think about the effort it took to get a PhD which seemed less about my intelligence and more about grit.  At the same time, had I failed in the end, how much would I still be touting all that grit and determination?  It seems harder to celebrate the process that got you there without getting positive results.  I do feel that is what we must always try to do, because if did always focus on the end result we’re likely to be in a constant state of depression!  And perhaps the only real weakness is an inability to learn from our mistakes.  In the end that’s all we can really do, because there is value in the process, and most things that we think are our weaknesses might actually be our strengths with the wrong shade of intensity and it is only in reflecting on our behaviors and the outcomes can we gain the knowledge about how to use those strengths more wisely in the future.  Even then we will still be taking risks, but perhaps with a higher probability of success.  The final problem being that we are also terrible at assessing probabilities.  Of course if we always did things based on the odds, we also might never try anything, and yet it can be easily argued that much of our progress as a species is the story of overcoming low probabilities of success through grit and determination.

In the end, it seems to be a truth (perhaps even one with a capital T) that we are always bound to make mistakes and have failures.  The good news is that if making mistakes happens to everyone then there really is nothing wrong with us as long as we continue to strive to be more than we are, and strive to make this a world where everybody has that same opportunity.

Advertisements

Who’s Responsible?

t5d1i

I’ve been thinking a lot about personal responsibility lately and just kind of wondering what it really means.  It’s phrase that gets thrown around a lot, especially in regards to politics.  Conservatives use the term quite a bit but often don’t seem to behave in a way that shows they grasp the meaning or try to determine if it’s actually true.

When I googled the definition it gave me this:

Personal responsibility is the idea that human beings choose, instigate, or otherwise cause their own actions. A corollary idea is that because we cause our actions, we can be held morally accountable or legally liable.

Let’s look at the truth of this statement first.  There are plenty of arguments that can be made to show that this does not reflect life in any way.  Simply because the choices that any one person has in front of them are simply different.  A person living in poverty has a completely different set of choices to make than a person who is wealthy.  Now let’s throw in a genetic background which varies across the human population.  Now let’s throw environmental influences.  now let’s throw in information about how the brain develops and how one can be indoctrinated or brainwashed into a certain way of thinking.  Now let’s throw in levels of education which vary.  We are all conditioned for a certain set of responses that is either likely or more likely, which I discussed in a previous post about free will.  And of course this idea of personal responsibility is used to imply that all poor people are lazy and are poor by choice.

Now even if this notion of personal responsibility was entirely true, why is it that we have a government who shows no personal responsibility?  And I’m talking about both sides of the aisle, both Democrats and Republicans.  We simply don’t have a government that demonstrate personal responsibility.  How often do we hear politicians admitting their own mistakes?  How often do they apologize for the suffering they might have caused?  How often do they apologize for the policies that haven’t worked or been implemented effectively?  How often do they apologize for not doing the things they said they were going to do?  Sometimes I wonder if the reason there is a lack of trust in government in this country has less to do with the fact that they keep doing stupid things, but rather not owning up to the stupid things they do.  I mean seriously would you trust somebody who lacked so much self-awareness that they didn’t even seem to care or notice that they are screwing you or other people over?  I know I wouldn’t?

And that brings me to a bit of a side question.  Would you be more likely to re-elect someone who admitted to his/her mistakes or someone who denied that they made any?  I guess the answer seems to lean towards the latter because it seems we spend so much time trying to prove that someone made a mistake (and yes mistakes when you are in a position of great responsibility can cost people their lives), but do we do that because we know they won’t admit themselves, or were we really expecting them to be perfect?  The rest of us make plenty of mistakes, so does anybody really believe that those we elect are part of a select group of people who don’t make any mistakes?  Isn’t the most important thing that we learn from mistakes and don’t make them again?  Take the Benghazi situation. In hindsight it seems like a lot of things could have been done differently, and perhaps they will in the future, but shouldn’t we expect that with dangerous situations, even a slight error might lead to unnecessary deaths, and that such an error might be made by anyone?  Maybe somebody else might not have made the mistake.  Or maybe somebody wouldn’t have made the mistake 99/100 times but perhaps it just happens on the wrong day where they are more tired than usual and a mistake happens.  I’m not trying to imply that Hillary is guilty of any wrongdoing, but simply that expecting high ranking politicians to be faultless is a ridiculous high bar to set, especially given the high volume and level of decisions they make daily.

It seems to me that we have to allow for some error in judgment.  We should be able to expect politicians to be honest about admitting those errors and thus we can place values on their honesty and their ability to correct their own mistakes.  This to me seems to be an important part of personal responsibility that is missing from our daily lives.  Rich and the powerful always seem immune from the standards of personal responsibility that they hold to the rest of us.   Bill Cosby is a great example of a celebrity who placed himself above this standard, even though he certainly had a lot to say about African-American parents and being personally responsible.  Isn’t there something inherently untrustworthy about a person who does not practice what they preach?  What if Bill Cosby confessed what he had done.  Made some reparations to those he has raped, and turned himself in? We might not like him still, but at least we can appreciate a person who is taking responsibility for the pain that they caused.

In the end, it seems to me that “personal responsibility” is not a philosophy to center one’s self around.  It seems largely untrue, and even if it was true we rarely see it from the people in this world who should be the most personally responsible because of how powerful their positions, their influence, and their voice is. If one wants to believe in personal responsibility then let’s look at the factors that encourage people to be more personally responsible and address those issues instead.

What Makes A Good Human?: Faith

Well, if you know me, you might be surprised at this quality.  And to be honest this is one that I wasn’t sure I was going to include but could not really make it fit as part of any of the other ones and so have put it here. This one is 6th in the series and so if you were keeping count there will still be two more to come for a total of 8 (as opposed to the 7 I thought I was going to blog about in my intro to this series).  Hey I did say that this list was not set in stone, and my final quality justifies this change quite well so stay tuned. 🙂

So let me be clear here that when I say faith, I do not mean religious faith, nor do I mean blind faith.  The first definition of faith is “complete trust or confidence in someone or something”, and this is the faith I am talking about. Perhaps I place too much importance on stress and too much importance on living in the present moment, but one of my reason for including faith is borne out of the fact that we are exceptionally good future thinkers. It might be somewhat natural to think about the past, and of course we live in the present, but what value is thinking about the future, when the future is uncertain. Of course we can see the value in thinking about the future from simple mechanical movements like anticipating the trajectory of a ball as we reach out to catch it, to having grand visions of the future that we work to make a reality. Our imaginations and our ability to envision a path to turn what is in our minds into a reality is a great strength, and it’s safe to say our ability to think about the future is greater than any other creature. There is a double edge to this sword and that is worry. We worry about that uncertain future at times, and we worry that what we want to happen will not come to pass. Much of the grief we often feel when we lose somebody important (whether from death or breaking up our relationships) comes from a loss of a future that will now no longer exist with that person. Our ability to imagine the future is so strong that it can feel as real as any present moment. In a previous post in this series I talked about the value of play for helping us be in the moment, so too does faith. Whereas play helps us become lost in the moment, faith can help us focus on the present by making us feel like “everything will be alright”. Faith can give us hope and keep us steady.

One of the reasons that the future is so uncertain is that we can’t account for all the variables in any particular problem. And even if we could, there would be several that are simply not in our control. Wanting to fix things that are beyond our control is one big source of worry and stress whether it is a personal situation or the larger sadness we might feel over big problems like world hunger, gender inequality, or racism as individuals most of us can only do so much. The weight and burden of the future can drag us down and we need something to ease the mind and focus on the present. It is not surprising that faith is always used in the context of something that we feel is good. Whether it is a supernatural being who we believe is watching out for us, loves us, and protects us, to more tangible things like faith that a good friend will come through for us, a general optimism about the improvement of society, and perhaps most importantly a faith in ourselves that we can overcome challenges in our way. In reality none of these things are sure things despite what past experience might tell you. You may actually fail at what you are attempting, even if you’ve handled similar or even the same situations before. Society may get worse. Your friend may not come through despite how often they might have come through for you before.  The world is dynamic and constantly changing. Your friend is changing, you are changing, and society is changing and so there will always be some unknown variables. We can also be wrong that we understood a past experience properly to ensure similar results in the future. Humans are prone to Type I errors (seeing patterns or connections where none exist) and quite often we don’t understand our experiences fully. However, without some faith we’d always be questioning and doubting and while there may be a time for questions and doubt, to dwell on such things constantly can also be equally wasteful. Doubting your friend all the time may actually strain your relationship. Doubting yourself all the time may make you actually more prone to making mistakes. Being pessimistic about the world may actually make you less happy and less able to make a positive impact, which is the only way the world is going to get better, if we do something about it.

Richard Dawkins and others are often quoted as saying that faith and science are not compatible because science makes conclusions based on evidence, where as faith makes conclusions despite evidence. I tend to disagree with this notion, because I feel that to develop faith it cannot be built on nothing. In my experience what people disagree on is what people consider evidence. I wrote about this previously here and here. A large of the aim of religious institutions in keeping members of their faith is to discredit contrary evidence. If the evidence against what you have faith in seems faulty you are less likely to let it change your mind. But we’ve all had changes of faith as evidence is presented to us. What happens if that friend lets us down a few times? Chances are, our faith in them will be lessened. What happens if we start getting inundated with all the evil that happens in the world? We start to lose our faith and optimism in humanity. What can happen when let ourself down? We start to lose faith in ourself, which is often a scary place emotionally to be at. I think faith is born honestly in most cases, and I think if left unhindered we would adjust the things we have faith in over time as we continue to question, experience and learn. The important part is that faith should be changeable and it should be personal. When we indoctrinate children about what they should have faith in this is from a developmental context abusive, because the stronger our faith becomes in something, the less likely we are able to adjust it over time because of how beliefs work in our brain. The inability to change what we have faith in as we experience and learn new things leads to an unhealthy conflict: the struggle to remain static in a dynamic world. I think some people might wonder, what is the point of having faith if it may change some time in the future? Because the world may seem chaotic, painful and beyond comprehension at times, it makes some sense to have faith in an order, an intention, or a purpose that is forever and unchangeable. However, it’s only a convenient illusion that will become harder and harder to maintain with time without willfully ignoring contrary evidence.

There are no guarantees in life and it’s okay to be wrong about what you put your faith in. Everybody has been wrong about things before. Being wrong is one of the greatest shared human experiences. I do understand, however, that it can be distressing to admit when we are wrong about things, even more so when we invest a lot of time into having faith about someone or something. Faith as a result is perhaps the trickiest of all the qualities I’ve discussed so far because it can cause us to double down even when the odds are against us. In my opinion the thing to keep in mind is to let your faith work for you, and to not let your faith gain mastery over you. And don’t expect others to share your faith. That’s simply not realistic. But if I were to pick some basic things to have faith in, it would be this:

  1. Change is inevitable
  2. You have it in you to deal with that change
  3. Everything will be alright because changing what you have faith in is not a loss, it’s a gain – for you must have learned something new in order to get to where you are now.

A Change Will Do You Good

From http://ohiomarketingstudents.com

A friend of mine asked me a few months ago “What are your weaknesses?”  After mulling it over for a couple of minutes, to be honest, I couldn’t think of any.  Now don’t start thinking I’m a smug bastard, I know for a fact that I am far from perfect.  Then I thought, well I am not quite sure what my strengths are either.  I guess the way I have to come to view myself is a work in progress.  It seems to me that trying to determine what strengths and weaknesses are is tricky business.  I might say that I worry too much, but at some level worry brings about a level of awareness that might help you act or reach a solution.  Worrying too much is obviously a problem though as it can be draining and waste time.  Not worrying at all, might also be dangerous as it may make you apathetic to important things.  I used to be a huge worrier, but I always looked at it as a quality that was part of a spectrum from too much worry, to not worrying at all, and that there was a healthy balance in there.  So it wasn’t so much that worrying was a weakness but that I had to find an appropriate way of using that “worry” towards being constructive and not destructive.  And I always felt that worrying was better than apathy.   To me, all strengths and weakness are not an either, or, but rather qualities that lie on a continuum between two extremes and thus any weakness may have some important qualities that we simply need to foster more.

If I say that my strength is kindness, does it mean I don’t have room to grow?  Does it mean that I couldn’t be more kind?  I have never been one to simply rest on laurels as I think it is important to strive each day to be more than we are (provided we are lucky enough to live in an environment where we have such an opportunity and are not fighting for basic subsistence needs like so many in this world).  Our strengths might manifest themselves in different ways.  While I may be kind, how I show that kindness may not be the right way for that particular situation.  Sometimes “tough love” is the best way to deal with a particular situation.  Some people respond to a stricter approach, drawing definite boundaries.  Some people respond better to you when you are sensitive, soft-spoken and supportive.  Some people might respond to both depending on the situation.  It takes time and experience to gain the wisdom to know how best to be kind to those around you.  Should I say it is a fault or a weakness when I show kindness in a way that makes sense to me, but is not received as such to the other person?  Or should I simply reflect and say, “I am glad my heart was in the right place, but I need to do better.”  And what if the person you are showing kindness to, feels grateful, but isn’t good at showing it?  As I’ve mentioned before, one of the amazing parts about life is that we never know how we may impact others.  Someone might be angry or frustrated with you in the moment, but only realize the kindness you showed years later.

In the end I would say that my greatest strength is that I feel I value good things like happiness, learning, compassion, self-reflection, equality, a strong work ethic, and humility, and that my weakness is that I am incomplete in demonstrating those qualities to a capacity I am completely comfortable with.  And that I may not be aware of the importance of other character traits that might make me and this world a better place.  And I accept that not only will this “weakness” never go away, but it might also be the very thing that allows me to become stronger, wiser, and appreciative of life in new ways all the time.  And so, in what might be a somewhat ironic way, the parts of me that I will not change, are the various things that allow me to change.  After all, why would I want to be the exact same person all my life, as if that were even possible? 🙂

It’s a mistake

Over my recent vacation to Canada to introduce our new baby to family we had one of those frightening moments.  He was sitting next to me on the sofa as I was watching him play with a toy.  Thus far he had been a pretty stationary baby.  He was starting to move more and I was paying more attention to him so he didn’t fall.  My aunt asked me a question and I turned my head and just like that I hear people yell out and I turned my head back to see him dive onto the floor, landing head first, his head bending backwards.  I picked up quickly and held him close, his cry was different.  My wife then grabbed him from me, not because she was mad at me (I think) but just her own motherly need to hold him.  I was on the verge of tears.  My head was swimming with thoughts that I had broken his spine and he’d be paralyzed or that I had caused some other brain damage…perhaps even fatal.  Thankfully he was fine, although if he gets a B in math class I’m sure I’ll feel responsible.

In reflection I thought about how quickly such horrible tragedies can happen.  What if the fall had been a bit harder?  Hit a different part of the head?  At times, life seems to be a matter of fractions of seconds and millimeters (inches for my American friends). It made me think about some recent stories I read about parents who have lost their children.   Earlier this year a bookcase killed a 3 year old girl as she tried to climb it and it tipped over killing her.  These kinds of things happen often enough now that we should be more aware, but there are literally a lot of possible dangers out there and I am not sure it’s possible to prepare for every one of them.   Very recently, footage at a London train station showed a baby carriage blowing onto the tracks as the parents stopped to help someone with their bags.  Fortunately the mother was able to get the carriage off the tracks in time, but the stroller literally gets turned by the gust of wind caused by the approaching train and quickly ends up on the tracks.   There is nothing remarkably different about these two events other than some fortune in spotting the trouble before it was too late.  I am sure there are many more parents who have been fortunate that a similar accident has not killed the child only injured them.  Or perhaps they caught the impending accident in time by catching something before it fell or moving the child out of harm’s way.  Perhaps when the child was a little younger and lighter, or the bookcase a little heavier they saw it teeter a bit and said “Hey, I should secure that.”  The positive outcome is most often the outcome.   Children can take more bumps and bruises than we think, and tears are often temporary.  No child dies from crying no matter how much we don’t want to see those tears.  But we simply can’t predict or foresee all possible dangers.

These two incidents and the one I experienced are good examples of how habit influences our lives.  We often get used to routine and what we consider as usual that we don’t take into account the unexpected.  After 7 months of my son not trying to roll off the couch you come to sort of expect that it won’t happen, even if that seems stupid in hindsight.  I am sure the parents who lost their daughter to the falling shelves, never thought she would try to climb it, or never had seen her try before.  I’m sure all of us who are regular train travelers are well aware of the gust of wind that rushes ahead of a train, especially in an enclosed station.  How many of us might think about how that wind might push a stroller?

The routine can even lead to more unfathomable mistakes.  Such as not realizing your child is in the car seat behind you and leaving them in a hot car for hours.  If you are a parent or just a compassionate person it takes just a second to imagine what the infant must have gone through.  There is no way your mind can take you through that slow death.  You will hit a wall before it gets really terrible and all you know is that unspeakable darkness comes after.

These incidents unfortunately also end up serving as a reminder of the lack of compassion that is so visible in society today.  The comments that people make to these parents are truly horrifying.  Scores of “perfect parents” who think they’ve done everything right and would never make the mistakes these parents did.  These perfect parents are calling for the gallows instead of realizing that the person you are criticizing is in a massive amount of pain.  If it could be displayed as a physical wound it would be a chest wound to the heart with the patient ending up in the intensive care unit in critical condition.   And how “perfect” are these parents anyway? Have these parents never had their kid fall? Driven over the speed limit with their kid?  Driven in a busy city with their kid?  Have they never lost their kid in a crowd?  Have their kid’s sweaty hand slip from their grip in a dangerous situation?  Did they never have to watch their kid after having a couple of drinks, perhaps affecting their judgment or reaction time?  There are more possibly dangerous scenarios than I can list, and the fact that nothing ever happened to them during that time is the only reason they are not one of these tragic stories.

Now don’t get me wrong.  There are terrible parents out there.  There are parents who do unspeakably horrible things to their children, or who are just irresponsible and are neglectful to their children causing them great harm, mentally, physically, and sometimes fatally.  It is actually the harm to children that led me away from the idea of their being a loving deity out there, but perhaps that is a post for another time.  The point is that the death of a child is always a horrible thing regardless of how it happens and so it is understandable that we would get angry.  That feeling, however, does not give us the right to lash out at other people in pain.  We all make mistakes, and many of them go unnoticed because nothing bad ever comes close to happening while we are making them.  You want to get angry, direct that energy into something useful; education, better safety standards, helping others.

These perfect parents, even if it were possible often sound like the kind of parent who hovers over their kid, never letting them play just because they might get a bruised knee and keeping them so far from danger that they are more likely to get brought down by the simplest things in their adult life because they’ve never had to cope on their own.  And here’s the rub – as parents we must walk that thin line between protecting our children and giving our children the freedom to overcome their own obstacles in life.  Children need to face fear, and they need to solve their own problems and make mistakes while doing it.  Children also need their parents to be good people, and not just good guardians.  The London couple helping out somebody with their baggage is a great act of kindness that kids need to see.  If you think that you are a positive individual who is a good role model for your children then part of you must continue to be the person you’ve always been.  Kids may take over your life, but you are not your kids.  You have your own identity and, again, if you value yourself then part of being a good parent is just being what you think is a good human being (good luck in getting an agreement on that anytime soon).

Finally, I want to quickly express my concern for the trend in wanting to criminalize every parent for these mistakes.  All the details of the case rarely get reported and unless you are intimately involved in the case you really don’t know the truth.  Furthermore, even though many parents do not face criminal charges thankfully for these horrific mistakes, some do simply because they don’t have what society considers having a “good character”.   Maybe you occasionally do some marijuana, maybe you flirt a little with other girls or had an affair. Maybe you just aren’t a rich white person.

All I can tell you is that had my son truly been severely injured or killed in his fall, I can guarantee you that no prison would have walls stronger than the one I would have built for myself.  Nothing you could say would be harsher than what I would be telling myself.  I will guarantee you that you do not love your child any more than I do and though your negative judgment would be despicable, I would still never wish on you such pain in my anguish.  So if you can’t direct your anger and sadness to the loss of a sweet child into something helpful at the very least remember the golden rule, which I hope you are teaching your children, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all.”

The Perfect Blog Post

From http://www.allposters.com

A concept that has fascinated me for some time is that of perfection.  People will say something is perfect, but what does that really mean?  If we look at the dictionary definition we see that perfect means having no mistakes and flaws or completely correct and accurate.  But all of these words have some subjectivity to them.  Few people agree on what a mistake or flaw is.  And is anything completely correct and accurate?  If something can be, we often find that there is disagreement here also.

It seems to me that perfection is ultimately an ideal that everybody holds, but that nobody really agrees on.  In this way I find it very similar to the concept of God.  And many people say God is perfect and so the analogy is even stronger in that respect.  Nobody can really agree on the nature of God and everybody holds a slightly different view of what God wants and how He/She behaves.    In addition to the fact that I believe it is not up to the atheist to disprove the existence of God (but up to the theist to prove the existence of God), it seems also a fruitless task to disprove something which is not clearly defined.  Perfection seems to me exactly like this.  If perfection is an ideal and what is ideal is subjective to the person holding the ideal then perfection as a concept maybe limited in value to all but the individual.  Which means just like you shouldn’t be trying to enforce your vision of God on anybody else, perhaps we should also not be so adamant that others share our view of perfection.

Can we truly experience a shared value of perfection?  Many have tried to define a perfect system of government, a perfect society or

From http://dancearchives.net

civilization, a perfect self, but it is unclear that everybody agrees with those ideals, and many times they seem so implausible to reach that it seems that they will simply be rejected because some feel they are not rooted in reality.  But I think those that try to come up with these “universal” ideas of perfection do believe they are obtainable, at least in some distant future.  I hold similar ideals as I am sure all you do as well.  It seems to me though that we define this conceptual perfection beyond the present, but feel that the goal of perfection is not so far away that we can eventually reach it.  Science might give us some better clues as to what some perfect state might be, but to do so we would have to be sure we knew absolutely all the variables.  And we are far, far away from that and it seems likely we will never be at a state in which we know everything about the universe.

The next question then is, well what if we really do reach some state of perfection?  I wonder if we can simply be content and happy in the long term, before we are really start thinking about how things could be even better.  This seems true at an individual level or even if we do have some shared value of what perfection is.  Unless we knew everything (highly unlikely) it seems like we would always be searching for more and that perfection is not possible.

Finally I think then it is worth asking the question, are such ideals like perfection a good thing?  If it is a goal we can never reach does it prevent us from being content and happy in life?  The answer is maybe.  I think if you accept that perfection is some point on the horizon that you can move towards but never reach (or at least not reach easily or quickly) then you might instead to learn to appreciate the journey you take to get there.  If on the other hand you believe the perfect state is actually reachable in a tangible way and you don’t get there, then this can leave one frustrated, disappointed and unhappy.

While I ponder about perfection frequently, the most recent inspiration was looking at my son.  He seems perfect.  He has no mistakes or IMG_7532flaws.  He will make mistakes and he will have flaws however.  Thus I began to wonder if maybe, even as a concept, perfection doesn’t exist.  It’s just something we believe in but have no evidence of.  Because he is who he is, and while we will try to nurture him positively into the world, everything about his life will be different than mine and who he ends up as will be who he is supposed to be.  He is supposed to make mistakes and have flaws.  Thus he is in accordance with his nature.  As we all are.  Our nature is to change, to grow, and be imperfect.  In the end perhaps we are all according to our nature, and maybe that is what perfection really is.  The good news is, nobody is saying you have to like it.

I think it is very important, however, that we have these lofty concepts, and that we continue to dream of better ways to live life, because it could be that in our imaginings we do end up moving towards some better future.  I think as long as we remain humble about our dreams of perfection and be willing to modify and change our ideals when life presents us with new information then the concept of perfection can have meaningful purpose.