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.

Out Under The Sky

When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer by Walt Whitman
When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

A friend of mine and I had a wonderful discussion about magic and perfection the other day. It got me thinking about what it means to appreciate the magic something.  For her it was about the pure and the simple.  On a wonderful little gift she gave me, the tag on the gift had the line from the following Walt Whitman poem above “from time to time, Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars”.  When I looked up the entire poem and read the words (as I had never read it before) I found it funny how much the meaning of the poem had to do with what I was sorting through in my mind (by the way this friend was a student in my Introduction to Earth Science class and wonder if there isn’t more of a message in there for me lol).  The words from the poem she shared with me are good advice.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I could no longer follow such advice.  Have I lost something?  Have I lost the appreciation for magic?  Am I unable to enjoy things in perfect silence?  My mind singular on the beauty I behold?  Not too long ago another blogger I follow who writes poetry that I always connect with wrote a poem about missing when life was simple called Old Happy Stars.  I do long for that.  I think we all do to a certain degree.  I also know that you can’t go back and making things feel so simple an amazing is very hard for me.

This discussion about magic came up because we were discussing Santa Claus. She was a firm believer in Santa Claus until the 4th grade, and is raising her daughter, like many people, to see all the magic that is Santa Claus.  I am someone who never once believed in Santa Claus, and thus even I were to want to give my son Santa Claus at Christmas there would be no level where I could really fake it.  I have no memories of any magic associated with Santa.  She said it’s important for children to have those magical things.  And I have to say I agree with her.  After the conversation I started to ponder what the magic was in my childhood.  I remember looking at lightning in thunderstorms and feel that it was absolutely magical.  Thunder seemed magical, the smell of rain seemed magical.  For me there was a lot of magic in the sky and I am certain I had some moments of perfect silence, even if it wasn’t actually silent.  I think sometimes in such moments we feel perfect silence because we are in perfect solitude, shutting out the rest of the world while we are singular in our focus.  When I came home I started watching my son and how amazed he is by things, whether it’s trains or the planes up in the sky.  It seems to me that even they begin to learn what these things are and what their purpose might be, they have no idea how they work.  Something that seems to moving but has no muscles, no animal-like locomotion, no feathers for flying must seem like absolute magic.  If I wasn’t forming a lot of long term memories, and I saw this metal object flying in the sky I would be pointing up every single time too in excitement.  I think, at least I hope, kids always see things as magical, even if you don’t give them Santa.  For them, every object that they’ve dropped or thrown up in the air comes down.  That plane up in the sky has to be some pretty crazy stuff to them, and what other choice do they have but to take it on faith that it will not fall down from the sky.

That thought made me happy, but I started to get a little bit sad, because I am not sure that I could just gaze at the stars in perfect silence. Because in that poem I am the Learn’d Astronomer, and if I was a student in that class I would be enthralled by the equations, the figures, and the charts.  When I look at the stars I can’t help but think what the humidity might be that is impacting their twinkle.  I would think about how far away those stars are, and how trigonometry gives us a way of telling how far away they are through stellar parallax.  I would think about how the stars are like a portal back in time, knowing that I am seeing what a star looked like 10,000 years ago, and how at that time human civilization was just dawning.   If you can’t tell already, it’s hard to quiet my mind.  I look at everything like that.  Sometimes I am wondering and questioning, maybe coming up with some hypothesis to explain what I’m seeing.  Perhaps I would make an analogy.  Or perhaps I would simply think about all the forces at work, or the history of the object, the big picture, the detailed picture, related pictures.  Sometimes I contemplate all the connections that one thing has to others.  All that comes to me in a flood and I feel overwhelmed by how amazing this universe is.  And then I started to smile, because maybe it’s not magic, but it’s still amazing.  It’s still beautiful.  I t still leaves me in awe and wonder even if I know exactly how it works and think about every variable in the equation.  And maybe for every person that walks out on the Learn’d Astronomer and enjoys that perfect silence at the stars, there is a student who stays and listens and just takes it all in and the amount of seemingly simultaneous thoughts grow like the branches of a tree.  And I’m not making a comment about level of intelligence because my friend is extremely intelligent and I feel like she experiences those moments of perfect silence frequently, perhaps even at will when she needs to.  But maybe it’s just really a different way of approaching the same beauty in life.  There are truly times when I wish I could experience such moments that Whitman describes, and so I envy her.   But maybe the beauty I see is just as enviable.

So as I began to smile I thought back to just that morning and how when I drove in to work just sliver of the crescent moon was visible as the moon waned. Often, at about an hour before sunrise, there is enough reflection of the Earth back to the moon and you can see the rest of the lunar sphere, even though it’s featureless.  Then I thought in my mind about the geometry of all 3 objects and had this model in my head.  And I decided to write a poem.  The one I just posted a few days ago.  And like magic I took all those thoughts and imagined almost like a love affair between the Earth and the moon.  So even if I stare at the moon and explain its beauty while also appreciating it, such thoughts can still inspire, still create, and still bring me a great deal of wonder that I think can be considered a type of magic.  And maybe that Learn’d Astronomer is just as lost in his world of equations and charts as the star gazer is lost in his moment of perfect silence.  Maybe it’s not so important how you experience magic in the world, but that you do experience it and never lose that ability to get lost in wonder and awe at beauty.

A Quick Word About Heroes

I have had several posts that deal with the idea of heroes and are propensity for elevating people to the heights of perfection.  Such posts can be posted here, here and here.  But I also wanted to add to this an excellent post by somebody who is turning into one my heroes (because he hasn’t revealed any flaws to me…yet) who writes an excellent ethics blog.  He approaches the idea of heroes with an excellent thought experiment and by reminding us that it’s the worth of the ideas we should always be analyzing rather than the worth of the person who puts forth those ideas.  Now I promise not blog anymore about heroes. 🙂  Maybe.

What Makes A Good Human?: Humility

It is with pride that I introduce the next important quality to being a good human.  Well not too much pride.  I mean I could be wrong.  This is all just my opinion after all.  Anyway it’s humility.  Out of all the seven deadly sins, the one considered the worst and the one in which all others can stem from, it is pride.  It was pride that caused Lucifer’s fall into Hell in the Bible.  Pride, ego, conceit, whichever turn you prefer to use all of these are ultimately harmful to an individual and society.  When the self, or when a group puts themselves above others, saying they are better, failing to notice the achievements of others, and excessively admires themselves this is a recipe for disaster.  A lack of empathy, narcissism, bullying, oppression all stem from conceit.  Humility is the cure for this disease.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” – Mark 9:35

Humility in practice can be difficult to achieve, however.  For instance, we know that having a positive self-esteem can be beneficial for increased happiness and confidence.  So isn’t having some pride important?  Should I not be proud of my accomplishments?  And what about the other end of the spectrum?  Should I go around saying “I’m not worthy, I’m but a speck of dust at the bottom of your shoe, I shall default to your wisdom, intelligence, and might?”  This is not humility either.  It’s either not genuine, or simply fear.  Humility is not submission.  Humility does not ask us to put ourselves beneath others, only to consider the possibility.  Anyone we meet regardless of age, status, race, gender, etc., may have something to teach us. They may be doing something in a better way that we are not.  They may have a piece of wisdom about something that we do not have.  It asks to consider the possibility that we may enjoy a privilege that they do not and to understand that should that privilege be taken away, we may be no better than anybody else. Humility asks to accept the fact that we may be different but no better or worse and thus is a seed for equality.

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” – Proverbs 11:2

Humility is challenging to master because of its subtlety.  It does not eliminate pride, but it tempers pride.  There’s a difference between telling someone you are a good teacher, and that you are the best teacher.  This is why “excessive” admiration of self is included in the definition of pride.  So you may become an expert in something, but you can admit that someone might know more.  You can admit that you might not know everything.  You can admit that you might have been wrong about something.  Humility doesn’t prevent us from being confident and proud of our accomplishments but it simply reminds us that we are far from perfect, that we can still grow and learn.  Humility feeds into curiosity in this way, and then curiosity can feed back into humility.  As we continue to learn new things we may realize we didn’t know as much as we thought we did, thus humbling us.

The servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say words of peace. – Surah Al-Furqan 25:63

Humility is probably one of the central tenets of every major religion; speaking to the dangers of pride and the importance of being humble before others and before God.  I feel that one of positive aspects of God is to be a constant reminder that there are forces more powerful than yourself in the universe.  As an atheist we can get our feelings of humility through science itself.  One cannot help but feel small in the context of a universe that science has shown to be quite large and magnificent.  We know we are mostly helpless against major disasters like hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and volcanoes.  We know we are the product of evolution, one of many animals and plants on this planet and that we must share it.  Evolution teaches us that we are specially adapted to our environment, but so is every other species and thus we have no more right to life than any other. Our actions impact others and ourselves, and we must be careful not to have too much conceit as a species lest we bring about the end to our own existence or the existence of other species.  Science by its very nature is humble, because it is constantly skeptical, constantly asking questions, constantly self-corrects as it moves forward.  It can never be too big for its britches because it usually isn’t long before someone comes along and improves, refines, or disproves an idea already established.  And this is why those who have fundamental religious views can never truly be humble, because if you are in position that you are so certain that you are correct that no other well-evidenced idea has the ability to change your mind then humility is not one of your strong suits.  Humility is also accepting the possibility that you might be wrong, perhaps even about some very important things you believe in.

Be humble, be harmless,
Have no pretension,
Be upright, forbearing;
Serve your teacher in true obedience,
Keeping the mind and body in cleanness,
Tranquil, steadfast, master of ego,
Standing apart from the things of the senses,
Free from self;
Aware of the weakness in mortal nature. 

-Bhagavad Gita

Another important aspect of humility comes about in the aspect of love.  For most of us we have our strengths and weakness, but when entering into a relationship it is easy to put our defenses up, to make positive impressions, and to be our best self.  This is a difficult illusion to keep up, and some are better than others.  We can fearful of exposing our weaknesses and faults.  However, if we really want someone to love us for who we are, we must be genuine.  Humility tears down the walls of conceit and gives way to revealing our vulnerability.  This is often the scariest part of any relationship because when someone sees your vulnerability they can exploit it and really hurt you.  Humility is there to remind you that neither you or the person you love is perfect. And for someone to truly love you for who you are, such humble exposure to each other is, I believe, a necessary part of a long lasting, loving relationship.

It is humility that exalts one and favors him against his friends. – Kipsigis Proverb (Kenya)

Can one be too humble? Yes.  There are times when at least the appearance of confidence, and/or decisiveness is important.  There are times when you may have to take charge.  There are times when you are the smartest or most capable person in the room.  Being humble to the point where your self-esteem is so negatively impacted that you fail to recognize your own accomplishments is harmful.  Humility to the extreme can often just seem self-deprecating and is not a strong quality to have. Humility’s role is to always be there, hovering, and keeping us from getting too complacent.  Humility keeps us vigilant.  Humility reminds us we may have more to learn.  Humility helps us love better.  Humility helps us recognize that we are finite and have limits.  The most wonderful thing about humility is that while it erodes pride, ego, conceit, whatever you want to call it, it is at the same time very empowering.  I believe it draws good people to you, and surrounds you with love and friendship; people you can trust. It also empowers by giving you a sense of gratitude for all the blessings, good fortune, and love that you have in your life.  When you are genuinely humble you know that life isn’t always in your hands and that one must take time to be thankful for what you have.  This is something we all need to do more often.

Finding Equilibrium

In a previous blog post I wrote about some of my questions about equality.  Why do some people actively seek it and why don’t others?  Is that they already see the world as equal as it can be?  Do they simply accept a natural order in which things are going to be unequal?  Or are they simply selfish, knowing inside that equality might remove them from a position of privilege?

Whatever the answer to that question is, a recent conversation with a friend, and articles about the inequality that exists in areas of Baltimore, got me thinking a little more about equality.  I started to think about the question:  What does equality even look like?  Is equality a state of perfection that we cannot attain?  Are we caught in idealism and not being practical?  How can equality be achieved, when we are all different?  I think those of us who fight for equality have visions for what that might look like, but have we ever actually seen it?  Does this sense of equality only lie in our hearts and we push in a direction not really thinking about where we end up?  Even though nature often tends towards balanced, it is state rarely reached if ever.  Instead we find most things oscillating about a state of equilibrium.  Many times that oscillation is damped, meaning that while we never quite reach a state of balance, each oscillation is not as wild (or in other words doesn’t take us as far from equilibrium as the preceding oscillation).  Is this perhaps what the fight for equality looks like – swinging back and forth until finally the oscillations about that state of equality or so minute that we can no longer detect the inequality anymore?  In a complex society where one can find many areas in which inequality exists, do we prioritize the most obvious ones first, until other ones seem resolved to the point that new areas of inequality see more important?  Or as a fellow blogger wrote when addressing the issues of vaccines, can we sometimes make the issue worse by continually fighting for something even when the problem doesn’t exist because of the time and energy we have invested into a cause?  A recent Daily Show piece discussed how anti-GMO groups have actually helped large corporations, like Monsanto, to gain more of a stranglehold on the food supply because they are now the only ones with the money to be able to afford all the bureaucracy it takes to get a patent on a genetically modified seed.

It occurred to me that although we might be great at pointing out inequality, how often do we have a conversation about what equality looks like, and does it exist anywhere?  Are there real examples we can use?  Are there any microcosms of the larger society we all want to live in?  It is has only been within the past 30 years or so that a lot of psychological research shifted away from just looking and ailments of the mind and started focusing on the more positive aspects of our humanity, like happiness.  While depression is terrible and it is important to help those with depression out of those states, is learning how not to be depressed that same as knowing how to be happy?  Can we always derive what a good example is, by simply only looking at bad examples?  I believe the answer to that is no.  Growing up with an alcoholic father, I learned about the kind of husband and father I didn’t want to be.  But as I had marriage troubles in my own life it occurred to me I never thought enough about what a good father and husband is supposed to be like.  It required a certain rewiring in my thinking.  When it comes to studying happiness it required asking a set of questions that haven’t been asked before.  What makes people happy?  What kind of behavior to happy people exhibit?  What kinds of societies are happier? These questions are important to ask and science has helped make a lot of progress in the area of happiness.

So while we are all pretty great at point out inequality maybe we should shift our focus to talking about what equality would look like.  Find real world examples.  Analyze how and why those societies work and how they are advantageous to what we already have.  Pointing out inequalities between men and women have value, but let’s have a conversation about what are the positive values we want a human to have, regardless of gender.  Let’s have an idea of where we are going, before we push.  It might even help us get there faster

Ideally Though

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about a particular issue in this world and I think made an important and worthwhile change of view.  It’s not really a complete 180˚ turn, but I am asking questions in a different way, and feel like I am becoming more grounded about the issue.  That issue is for a later post, because in trying to understand my change of heart, because I feel like my original stance is not wrong.  After some soul searching I’ve come to the conclusion that the problem was that I was being too idealistic and it has lead me to think about ideals, and how we can sometimes get caught up in them and that it’s not always that helpful.

So what is an ideal?  We all have them.  We’ve all known people that are overly idealistic and while those people can be enjoyable to be around and make for engaging conversation, sometimes such people can appear a little naïve.  I may be one of those kinds of people at times.  The dictionary defines “ideal” as person or thing regarded as perfect, or a standard of perfection, a principle to be aimed at.  I realized that the reason ideals can get us in trouble is because they do involve some personal vision of perfection.  I have written about perfection before and how it can be an unhealthy concept since a) we all have different ideas of perfection and b) to my knowledge perfection has never been reached, so do expectations of perfection do us a disservice?  I believe at times they can.

If by definition an ideal represents some state of perfection, one that either cannot be reached, or cannot be reached easily or quickly being dogmatic about your ideals can lead to rigidity in thinking, it can also put you in a “future mindset” too easily when problems exist in the here and now.  For example you may hold the ideal that war is pointless, unnecessary and we should all live in peace.  I love it, and I’m on board.  But unfortunately there is war.  And while I do believe that we may someday get to a place where we find better ways to resolve conflicts than through war, it’s not clear that will happen anytime soon, and there is always the possibility that war may always exist, despite how obvious alternate solutions might be.  So given that there is war, we can’t get caught up in an ideal of world peace that we forget to treat soldiers humanely who have been injured physically and emotionally and give them the medical and psychological treatment they need during, and after their service. Hell even the immutable physical law, the Ideal Gas Law which describes the relationship between pressure, temperature, and volume of a gas doesn’t really exist.  The law describes how a gas would behave under ideal conditions.  Ideal conditions that while we can get close to we have been unable to reach.  So it’s important to remember that ideals are just that, and not in anyway a truth we can find in the present.

From http://meetville.com

There are many fine and lofty ideals out there.  It’s easy to just start thinking, I wish the world could just see things my way and it would be a better place, but that isn’t likely to happen.  But I don’t think ideals are a waste of time.  The part of the definition of an ideal that I like the most is it being something to aim at.  Ideals are like far away targets and it’s easy to imagine yourself hitting the target, but instead we should simply see it as a direction to head and not worry so much about whether we get there.  Focus on the journey and pay attention to what is actually happening.  It could be that solutions in the present don’t necessarily conform to your ideals but they are the right thing to do for the time that you live in.

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.