Perfection: For us humans, perfection is more of an experience than an actual trait. Even the master archer, who consecutively hits the bullseye twenty times blindfolded, hasn’t achieved perfection; she’s achieved a desired performance of consistency relative to a system built on points. I don’t dismiss the difficulty required to perform at that level; this is why it wows us. To say that something is perfect assumes that that thing has always been and will always be perfect. Perfection means that one is not subject to rules or standards. After watching a tiger stalk, pounce, and feast on its prey we don’t later critique the timing it took to stalk, the height it leapt, or fall into conjecture over what school of thought it employed prior to deciding on deer or rabbit for dinner. For us fallible humans perfection is a road, not a destination. Accepting non-perfection is to accept our humanity. We may not be perfect, but we can certainly be masters; and any good master will tell you that if one claims to be perfect, then they’ve stopped being a master.
Past: Of the three tenses this tends to be the one that shapes us the most. It’s our memories. And our memories are essentially little stories that either teach, please, or traumatize. Someone shared with me that her father walked out on her sixteenth birthday. This experience led her to find “him” in other men. It also led her to question her self-worth for years to come; and whether she knew it or not, this was a story that defined her. Imagine her memory as a stage production. The scene is performed and the father exits. In due time she too must exit, but as she tries, she can’t. She tries all side exits, and even out of desperation attempts to leap out into the audience only to meet an invisible barrier that keeps her on stage. She’s stuck as this character in this scene. This what our most painful memories are like. And you’ve been in this scene for so long that you’ve forgotten who you were before you went on stage. To face our past we must face our peril. Peril involves a choice. A choice to stay who you are (informed by that same painful memory) or a choice to be different. Exit stage left please.
Passivity: Consider Fran Healy’s chorus lyrics from a Travis tune titled “Driftwood” (watch the video here):
You’re driftwood floating underwater
Breaking into pieces pieces pieces
Just driftwood hollow and of no use
Waterfalls will find you bind you grind you
I’m talking about active passivity. The kind where you’re intentionally avoiding someone or something because you’re afraid of what may or may not happen. Or maybe you keep putting off that school application, that job application, or that bump that should get looked at. It’s the same kind of anxiety we have when our engine won’t turn over. We’re afraid to look under the hood. And strangely enough we’re ok with leaving the car where it is, walking away, and never fixing the problem. Like the tune suggests, avoidance make you passive and passivity gives your power away; you then become hollow and of no use.
Go to Part 1 of Harmful “P” Words