Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Why do we chase the mirage called Perfection ?

Why is the west so obsessed with perfection? At least it seems to be chasing outer perfection.
 Outer perfection to me is nothing but a short-lived illusion, covering a multitude of inner defects and deficiencies.{Let me confess at the outset, that the basis of this partcular rant include the facts that I am very easy-going, I am okay with 'just okay' and I dont usually chase perfection! I am not picky about things; I prefer to work as briefly as possible and have as much leisure as I can get!}
I see loads of people ...not just the celebrities but the rich & less famous folks  spending on various processes to look beautiful or 'perfect'. They sweat themselves out in order to lose a few pounds which come back so easily, if they slack off for a bit.
I see women in India visiting dozens of shops in crowded bazaars in the heat and dust and traffic, searching for 'perfectly matching' blouse materials for their saris or bangles for their clothes. I see men who do not have time to play with their kids spending hours hunting in shops for a 'nice' tie or a coat which matches their pants perfectly.
I can understand that perfection is important in certain areas such as medicine, engineering, law, etc  as the absence of perfection can lead to severe loss and pain  to life or limb or damage to property. I can also understand/accept some efforts in the pursuit of perfection for aesthetic reasons. But this life long chase for a mirage called perfection seems such a waste.
Why dont people understand that chasing perfection in things such as moral values, ethics, decent and humane treatment of people, animals, plants is much more this chase brings a decrease in pain and some happiness to living things.
Let me give a few examples to illustrate what I mean. For looking good or beautiful or 'perfect', people depend on cosmetics, clothes and accessories. Several of these cosmetics are from animal products and the animals are often kept in cruel conditions and some are probably killed in painful ways too.
To look perfect, we are causing a lot of pain and this is definitely not perfect. But it does not seem to bother us as it is not 'visible' to us! As if, imperfection does not exist, just because we dont see it!
I have always been bothered (by always I mean on and off) by the question, "do plants feel pain'. When this thought gets into my head and nags me (sometimes!) I keep thinking about how much we trouble these plants and trees for our own selfish use. Harvesting a crop for us to eat(to live) is one thing...but trimming plants, uprooting weeds, cutting branches to make the garden look neat(read 'perfect') is another.
I know that if I ever come across a proven research finding which states that plants do feel pain, I will die of  remorse!
This pursuit of perfection in the west also leads to humungous consumption of scarce and dwindling resources. Ever since I came to Canada I have been driven to madness to watch  stuff thrown away simply because 'it is outdated', 'out of fashion' or because 'a bit of paint has peeled' or because 'it is chipped at one corner'. The west wastes so much for maintaining the 'perfect look'.

This pursuit of perfection in the west bugs me for two reasons:
(1) it seems to be a pursuit of the perfect appearence and perfect image: it does not seem to be deeper than that. This leads to mere cosmetic changes and not real changes for the better. For example, botox may make you look good but  does not mean you are either healthier or happier[ I am not criticising everything, mind you. I really appreciate the west's pursuit of truth in science, the phenomenol changes  in their thinking such as electing a Black President in America, the slow but sure pursuit of equality of races, decrease in gender discrimination, acceptance and apologies of past mistakes, etc]
(2)Pursuit of perfection is actually leading to a lot of problems in some areas and it would be better to accept nature as it is . Things like genetic engineering in agriculture for example. The fruits are huge and  colourful but the taste is not like the taste of the original fruit(by original I mean fruits from non-hybred plants)
(3)Pursuit of perfection means changing what already exists, as you assume that what already exists has defects and you want to iron out those defects to make it perfect. But when you change the order of things you do cause a lot of chaos and the person seeking perfection is indifferent to the chaos he has caused...he does not have the time to reset the hundred things he disorganized, in order to perfect one object. Things and people always are in context and not in isolation; you cannot pick out one object or person to perfect, without having an effect on the contextual objects or people. The professor in the movie My fair lady, disrupted the life of not just the flower seller but others too.

(4) To me perfection is a perception; An object's level of perfection is not fixed but varies depending on the eyes of the perceiver ! (a proverb in my language says that for parents, even a rodent like child looks good!){To me, everything is perception; I will write about that elsewhere.....Hindu philosophy states that the  entire world is Maya i.e. an illusion and I sort of subscribe to that philosophy}
As perfection is a perception, if the perception changes tomorrow, the perfect object is no longer perfect, even though it has not changed! And do remember, people's perceptions today, changes with such dizzying speed! In today, out the next!
Perfection is transient; nothing is perfect forever: it ages, it withers; something 'more perfect' comes along and displaces this 'perfect' object or person;
Perfection may be an illusion; the defects and deficits may not be visible at this point in time.
Perfection may not even be 'right'.....especially if it comes at some heavy expense such as a life, grief or pain.
Perfection can be boring after a while; Imperfections may make an object/person more interesting, add character, make an object/person unique & challenging.

I am not against the pursuit of perfection entirely; I do believe that we should pursue perfection intensely in  some areas; I believe we should pursue perfection to some extent in all areas.
 But always consider, what damage you are causing yourself and others in this pursuit; Is your pursuit worthy? what are you sacrificing and or losing when you pursue perfection? Is it worth the sacrifice?
 For example, when I see Indian youth of today spending hours and hours in the gym, to get the 'perfect bod' instead of  enjoying life, I wonder what for? In a few years time, they are going to be flabby anyway! Age, food, gravity will take it's toll, if not today, at least tomorrow.

When I see people, without OCN, spending time, money and energy and not really having much fun in their pursuit of  the perfect whatever.... perfect home, perfect garden, perfect whatever, I feel pity.

PS: Why did I write this?
 Because of my ADHD, I get bugged when I see people taking time to do things, 'perfectly' instead of doing things quickly and moving on. I click 50 pictures when my husband takes one photo and it drives me insane to wait for him to finish his one shot! ( I get at least 5 good pics out of 50 while his one shot may be lousy if his hands shook or he got the wrong lens or whatever! Moral of the story...Pursue quan instead of qual)
 So I thought I will defend myself by attacking 'perfection' and it's pursuit!

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