Monday, February 27, 2012

The problem with 'perfection'

The term 'Perfect' is defined as the absence of any flaws, defects, or shortcomings. But as human beings, is that ever possible?

Someone very close to me wanted to particpate in an anti-circus protest here in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. She contacted the woman heading the Ringling Brothers protest and was pleased to be accepted as a member of the group. As she began to compile documents and videos to use during the protest, she had a disagreement with this woman over a political post on Facebook. From there, the woman became very nasty and degraded her for not being a vegan. "You would probably make a great advocate for the animals, if  would stop eating their flesh." the woman, a Ms. Carol Herard, wrote. She went on to say that she didn't think Pam could be a successful animal rights activist because of her onmivore diet. (The icing on the cake, in my opinion, was her ending with calling my friend pompous. Seriously?)

Ms. Herard's nasty word seemed to convey one message: If one if not a full-blown hippy vegan they simply cannot be an animal advocate. If you aren't going to save every single animal from any and all harm, then you can't act to save any. You are either a perfect animal rights activist or you are nothing.

I eat meat and I care about the welfare of animals so Ms. Herard's hauty attitude infuriated me. The awesome Steve Irwin was not a vegetarian, but his impact on animal awareness, preservation, and welfare cannot be questioned. Can she honestly say that he was a nobody for the animals because he was an omnivore?

Ms. Herard's close-minded vitriol got me thinking about the concept of perfection. I became hyper-aware of it all around me.

The day after I read about the argument between this vegan woman and my meat-eating loved one, I happened to tune into The Schnitt [radio] Show. I noticed the callers to the show were all lamenting over the fact that none of this year's candidates are 'perfect.'

There was that word again. My ears piqued as I listened for the next half hour. 

The host kept telling callers that "there's no perfect candidate out there ... we all have issues in our past."   But the callers kept challenging him on their candidate of choice and his perfection over the others in the pool.

When the "he's not perfect so he's not electable" diatribes became too much to stomach, I switched the radio over to the saved audio files and quickly lost myself in some Luke Bryan. (Hey, I'm a Southern girl. We love our country music!)

This past weekend, my husband and I were talking to our oldest daughter about upcoming opportunities for things like community soccer and gymnastics. Little Izzy not only inherited my flare for the dramatic but also the inability to to walk across level ground without tripping. She became all woeful over her inability to do various physical activities and adamantly refused to let her dad sign her up for either sport.  I offered the local children's theater since Izzy is more artistically inclined. She cheered at that thought.  Later, she was in her room playing games on her Wii. I hear the Wiimote hit the floor with a thud. She emerged from the room a few minutes later grousing over the game she was attempting.

"I can't do it!" she moaned, obviously frustrated.

"Honey, you have to keep trying. You're never going to get it on the first try and you won't get it if you don't keep trying," her father reassured her.

"But you beat the levels each time you play," she shook her head at my husband.

"I've been playing Super Mario Brothers for over 20 years, sweetheart."

He was right but Izzy wasn't buying it. She stomped back off to her room and started watching a TV show.

I tried to get her to try the game again, but she refused. Her "I can't" had quickly become an "I won't."

And that attitude bothers me. It's something that has taken root in our society and is growing like a bad viral strain.  The drive to become better has been replaced with apathy. IF one doesn't get something on the first try, they quickly give up and wallow in self pity, waiting on someone else to do the task at hand for them. And instead of being encouraging, we enable them, we do the work for them because we don't want to hear them moan and groan and we don't want to wait on them to "get it." We want it done now and we want it done perfectly and if the person in question can't do it right the first time, we do it for them.

For example, I would normally go into my daughter's room, turn the game back on, and get her past the level stumping her. I would enable her desire to see what the next world looks like without having to do the work to get past whatever goon is in the castle. This time I didn't. If she wants to get to the next level, she must earn entry for poor little Mario.

I am not perfect at anything. I am not not the perfect mother, wife, friend, co-worker, or writer. I make mistakes, I get angry. I get depressed. I don't have a perfect figure nor the perfect eating habits. I sometimes stumble through my day holding on to nothing but a prayer.  No, I am nowhere near being perfect. Nor do I ever want to be.

I allow my imperfections to filter through my fingers into the keyboard of this laptop and into the characters I create. Lindsey Foster isn't perfect at all -- she's shy to a fault, a little naive, and a very indecisive. Her mother is an emotional wreck. And even Eli has problems keeping his head on straight at certain times. Their faults and stumbles define them and make them exactly like you and me.

Sure, I am their creator and I could have made them all shining and intelligent and ... perfect. But where's the fun in that? Because, quite honestly, where do you go once you've attained perfection? What fun is life without a challenge to be better?

Perfection in human beings, or should I say the perceived perfection, only seems to lead to hautiness, superiority complexes, and condescending attitudes. 

I choose to be imperfect but still trying.

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