Sunday, August 23, 2009

Perfection Is Easy

I was looking over that essay “Tetramatrix” I started a year ago – recently I posted a part of it, “the saint as type” – and I realize now that this essay needs a lot of work. I spent most of tonight editing it, making as much use I could out of my headache (irritability enhances editing skills), before I realized that the sections on poet as type and hero as type were a little weak and no mere editing was going to perfect them, but much creative configuring was needed, and headaches are not good for that. I’ll have a working draft out in the next 5 days (I have a five day vacation!), but in the meantime, I frisked this little essay down, worked out a few snags, and I think she sounds pretty good.


This essay on perfection I started back in 2002! I’ve worked it through a few times, sent her out to a few friends. It was my first attempt at a redefinition, which has since been a favorite critical tool I’ve used, to, for instance, to make the concepts of pride and humility compatible, to get at the heart of love, and to extract the conceptual essence from my central concept, Needs, as described in my first chapter of the Idius.


Anyway, this essay was a door onwards in my writing. If I haven’t shared it with you yet, I hope you enjoy it!


Daniel June





            Moral perfection is possible only at the death of ideal. With our ideals we realize our flaws. Yet we do not worship ideal, nor sing ideal, nor weep ideal; we destroy ideal! We destroy it by becoming it.

            The aim of morality is to become the rules. Virtues are not to be memorized but realized. Indeed, it is good to forget the rules, and with them forget there is even a possibility of failure.

            The ideal of perfection is the ideal of failure. While they pretend to strive always to become perfect, perfection is not their true ideal. Striving is. In this, they feel satisfied. Instead of actually being perfect, they believe they should be failures ever "wanting" perfection. So they are static: oscillating around that same circuit with no bold turn. They are satisfied with the perpetual guilt of inferiority. Therefore, the idealist is one who cannot become, for he already is. It is his duty to pretend and to thirst. He is the ape of his ideal, the singer of rationalization. Thus, he devours his hands.

            Why is “perfection” a failure? An ideal’s key virtue is its adaptability. Any ideal that we cannot become is no ideal at all, but a lie.

            Why cloth perfection in impossibility? Who cares about impossibility? It is doubly ugly, being in itself imperfection. What have ideals ever done but subjugate and destroy individuality? “Be this, do that, look this way, say that thing”––for who? For what? What is the point?

            "I cannot be perfect." Then what is the best you can be? Be that your perfection. But now I call you to question. Why should perfection be hard? Why not easy? Perfection is easy. I never again rationalize and it is over. God is in the little finger.

            If we are to become our ideal, should we not first make sure the ideal is good? We all think we know what is good. What sort of friend do I seek? Who do I admire? Who do I envy? To feel guilt or shame is to know what beauty is. This knowledge is itself beautiful. Therefore, the unhappy man holds the yeast of beauty. A perfect man is not one who makes no mistakes, but only one who does not choose to make what he knows to be a mistake.

            Once we have our ideal, we become it. Ideal is a bitter medicine. We do not roll it around in our mouth, but swallow it into our being. Let us be the violin virtuoso, who practices eight hours a day for years. For him, beauty is second nature, eloquence is automatic. And he will not be alone, for perfection has a thousand faces, but a single heart.

            A perfect person will excel in only his own virtues. One man is more generous, another more jocund, another more sensitive, another more frank. This makes it easier for us to become. For in our youth and infancy, we learned something unique and personal, that for us worked especially well. Ever after, we cherish that tool. We carried it into each novel challenge. For instance, the young boy who learned to divert punishment by acting silly grew up to be the life of the party. Thus we caricature ourselves.

            Per – thoroughly, fectus – formed. And what is perfectly formed, some divine unchanging diamond? That which never changes is dead—sacred corpse. What we want to fully form is the former himself, the performer, perfect performance, which means to always do your best. Which we do. I am perfect.

            If we seek an ideal, let us learn a lesson from Benjamin Franklin. In his autobiography, Franklin proposed a system for achieving moral perfection: to list the various virtues (he counted thirteen), creating an ideal of them, and to continually police his behavior to record inevitable failures. He believed the knowledge that he would be happier if he acted according to virtues, reinforced with self-policing, would render him perfect.

            The initial list of virtues included only twelve, such as "industry," "temperance," and "silence." Franklin learned of these virtues from his readings. Yet after we read of his life before he invented this list, it is clear that this list is less a sum of virtue, and more a description of Franklin himself. Franklin had sought affirmation in his readings for what he already was. Only later did he add a thirteenth virtue of humility, upon a friend’s recommendation. This virtue had not occurred to him.

            Franklin's system fails. For in the one virtue that was not a description of Franklin, "Humility," he could not change himself. Though he noted the fruits of feigned humility, he failed to adapt this virtue, and projeced this failure on to the world at large:

"In reality there is perhaps no one of our natural Passions so hard to subdue as Pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself. You will see it perhaps often in this history. For even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my Humility."

            And thus he regards humility as impossible for everyone. Actually, pride was his struggle; many others think nothing of humility, being humble. It is not the grapes that are sour, but the fox. His system failed to change him. He at last said "I never arrived at the Perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it." Was it he who fell short, or his system?

            His system was flawed in that he never became perfect, but only progressed towards it. The introspection was continual, and always reminded him of the possibility of failure. Moreover, he mentioned nothing about changing his underlying assumptions from which those vices grew, but blindly fought against them. He did not consider vices as virtues unknown to themselves, but idealized, and so suppressed. Therefore, we must not discourage at this failure. Franklin was not specific, not absolute, not intolerant to exceptions. We differ.

            We find virtue easy. Who disagrees? Let us consider the ethical system of Aristotle.

"There are many ways to be in error, but there is only one way to be correct. That is why error is easy and correctness is difficult, since it is easy to miss the target and difficult to hit it.

“This is why it is also hard work to be excellent. For in each case it is hard work to find the intermediate; for instance, not everyone, but only one who knows, finds the midpoint of a circle. So also getting angry, or giving and spending money, is easy and everyone can do it; but doing it to the right person, in the right amount, at the right time, for the right end, and in the right way is no longer easy, nor can everyone do it."


            If there is only one way to be correct, such as hitting nothing but the bull’s-eye––though there are many ways to hold the bow, place the arrow, aim––and there are many ways to be in error, to hit the thousands of things that are not the bull’s-eye, then does this mean that hitting the bull’s-eye is hard? Rather, missing countless times is part of hitting it. We could not hit it unless we missed it. Therefore, neither can be easier or harder than the other, for both are the same action. Mistakes are part of success.

The analogy of a single target is unlike life, for when we find our self in a situation, we may approach our problem in many ways, according to our temperament and personality. To fail, if we are proud and strong, is much harder than succeeding. For a virtuoso to play as if he were a beginner actually takes practice. Only precision feels easy to him. And even arriving at that virtuosity is easy, for if he were to be lazy and not practice, he would suffer from being what he is not—lazy. For the achiever, high achievements are the only easy thing, whereas failures and mediocrity depress him. What is after our perfect nature is easy, being perfect. So when we use our reason to find the intermediate, if indeed the situation calls for an intermediate rather then an extreme, it is much easier to reason it through, to screw up our brow in the contemplation, than to surrender ourselves to blind chance and unaided fate.

            So what use are ideals? I reject all ideals as such. There is no such thing as a good ideal. For all ideals suppress and confine. What do we have to do with being happy Buddhas, happy Taoists, happy Pauls (Christianity knows no other ideal), happy supermen, happy angels. "If all men were angels––" then all men are naught. Rather do I prefer man as ideal. "The planter...sees his bushel and his cart, and nothing beyond, and sinks into the farmer, rather then Man on the farm. The scholar in the right state is Man Thinking." Have no God before your essence. The caterpillar does not envy the butterfly, but becomes the butterfly naturally and without study.

            For what is it to be human? Never again do I wish to hear that we have vice, "because we are human." To be human is to be beautiful, lovelier then angels, as vulnerability allows courage. The coward is no man, but the perversion of man. Likewise, the cancerous tumor in a lung is not "all-too-lung," but not lung enough. To choose to err is not human or all-too-human, but inhuman. The perfected man is only human. Decadence is not the definition. We are to be men, not new men, not supermen, nor overmen, but simply men. For the perfect people in the world are morally perfect because they never do what they know is wrong. What dramatic results come from this!

            Why are we willing to believe that perfection is so hard? “Nobody is perfect” they teach and believe uncritically. We've been brainwashed to think perfection is impossible. The newspapers, movies, pulpits, parents all unite on this, that perfection is impossible. They tell us everywhere that evil is normal. This is a trick, evil is abnormal. "Well nobody is perfect" they actually say as a slogan of triumph, such is their laziness.

            And so we are brainwashed into lower standards: “to err is human, we are only human, nobody is perfect, everyone makes mistakes, its okay to have flaws, just ask for forgiveness every time you pray, we're not angels, we are of the flesh until heaven, we are the all-too-human, sin is human nature.” No. Human nature is made of nobility. Meditating on things that are so called "human, all too human" is one of the means by which we can multiply life's burdens. I encourage the innocents to remove their Halloween masks and face the mirror, smiling nobly.

            Do not think "mistakes" are imperfections. When we begin a new habit, we must make effort. It is good our body resists this effort, for this resistance represents stability. To mistake is human. For perfection learns. A mistake is education, an err is knowledge. For the difference between flaw and perfection is one of kind, not degree. There is no “almost perfect.” Perfection improves.

            Consider the infant Jesus. Do you think he did not take his first step, his second, and plop! fall on his face. Or make a faux paus as a preteen, or doubt himself as an adolescent? This is what it is to be fully human. This is learning. It is a step towards the goal and not the goal itself.

Christianity is a misunderstanding. What is said? "Every stoic was a stoic, but in Christendom, where is the Christian?" "There was only one Christian, and he died on the cross."  The sheep's first words of comfort insist: “I cannot aspire to Godhood in this life.” Yet he who does not found his perfection in this life will never find it. Christianity is the crystallization of the sinner, nothing else. "Forgive me a humble sinner," would be sweet words if they were uttered but once, but they are the most evil words when memorized and scheduled.

            Yet why do you struggle to be perfect? Do you not struggle because your arrogance demands that your goodness cost strength? Do you want bragging rights? If you struggle with sin by day, you will sleep in her arms by night. But innocence is no struggle.

            As long as man struggles against vice (traditionally, against his own sexuality) he is numb to subtler calls. It is a ritual of unthinking, a means of staying upon familiar ground. Profound self contempt is a game, perversion is a savoir. The man thinks "this vice represents my true self, and that must be stamped out––yet shall I stamp myself to death, or only to fitting misery? For this seems easy and comfortable."

            Those who say "my horrible temper" will never valuate this temper, will never even put their finger on it, but appease their conscience by talking about it behind its back. Any man who talks about his vices behind their back lacks the gall to face them. And so they remain.

            Greatness begins with one idea: that your circumstances were perfect for your stand. If you can believe this, that society and community and family are your ideal platform, then you will be great. My world is perfect: therefore I am perfect.

            To be perfect, we must merely vow "I will never rationalize." Then we will see not the face of sin, but the heart, and we will be disgusted. Be perfect and do not consider this a struggle. For what a man deeply purposes in his soul, he cannot easily resist. If we deeply love perfection, then this is the easiest equation there is.

            Put aside your heroes. You craves others to escape yourself. Men praise heroes so they do not have to be heroes. Hero worship is laziness. "He was perfect so we wouldn't have to be"––silly Christians. What? Do you really baptize yourself again each time you shower?

            To be perfect, you must never think the rules. To think the rules is to break them. Rules are meant to be forgotten; the humble never think humility, the innocent never thinks innocence. A principle is a principle is a principle. If one is able to deny it, then he is not his principle, nor does he deserve it. A man is only free to deny his principle if he is laboriously undoing it. Never, never when tempted. Your principle was designed for the moment of pain more than for the moment of comfort. Sooner swallow a razor then break the smallest principle.

            Know that perfection is easy. “Whatever I considered moral I first considered, if not impossible, then at least laborious, a complete overcoming of the self which few bother with.” I do not teach this. Men think it is hard because they do not know it is easy. Not my ethics, but every ethic. Fulfilling the Sermon on the Mount is mere play, utter honesty is simple, renouncing the world in an isolated cell is effortless––ask him who does it. Could he do otherwise? The only struggle is hypocrisy.

            Perfection is easy. Not that it becomes easy, not that it will be easy someday: it already is. Only health resists, and only health persists. It is wise to resist this change even as you change, for such is growth. There is no moral challenge: only immorality is hard to do. Do not struggle. Transcend.

            Yes, I demand perfection of you, and not by an "easy" definition, but by the only definition that can apply to reality: you must be the definition. Life is an overcoming, full of difficulties. And so life is hard, but perfection is easy. Whether you choose perfection or fault, you will still have to face the trials of life.

If you are perfect, you will necessarily find greatness in everything, the excellence of Gods, that greatness which comes from hardest work; the only greater suffering is not doing at all. "If it is popular, it must be wrong," you say, "How then can a man ever know his greatness, and why by any secondary witness any way? The only witness, the witness of three, is the witness of passion, of reason, of force. If I have these, then I am great even in obscurity." So be it. Yet if you are not great in your own eyes, then how are you perfect?

            To be great, you must be simple. To be simple, you must have unity. Sooner hell than compromise one iota of your integrity. Sooner torture than forfeit one drop of your truth. What you know to be true the world must bow to, for you are the aristocracy of genius. Apologize nothing. Compromise nothing. Hold fast to your truth as to your own soul, for it is your own soul. Would the world educate you, help you, reform you, improve you––and so rape you? The world presses a kiss. Do not kiss back and call it love. Sooner kill then kiss

            And so our morality is like a computer. All the virtue formulas must be hidden, unconscious, unknown, uninteresting, and never said. What need I see math on my computer screen? So too do we formulate and then forget. The man who thinks morality is not. How does he forget? Through exhaustive discipline which makes no exceptions, through blocking the ability to think otherwise (if thy ear offends thee pluck it off: be literally incapable of hearing certain words, freeze your mind up, blank out, stop. Or better yet, solve these problems).

            And so the pious role of struggling with sin is corrupt. What use are such humble sinners? Humility here is the means of preserving the sin. I will judge myself bad so that I beat the world to the punch, and I will be good by judging myself bad. Decadence.

Don’t transcend. Immerse.

            Whatever is perfect suffers no witnesses.

            Of course, this is what “ideal” does, puts you in a voluptuous state of wanting, always anticipating, panting in hope. Ideals are not ideal. Realize what you are, and in that, forge your future. I am perfect. I am the kingdom of heaven. My eternity is now. There is nothing else, there is no other time, there is no preordained love.

            The great wrong a man commits is to say “I am not perfect nor can be and this is okay,” to say, “Imperfection is okay,” or, equally as bad, “Imperfection is not okay, but I cannot do anything about it.” These are deep lies that language puts into our heads. A little meditation and redefinition will save you from this error.

            Now you have died and have slept in your grave, but lo! the judgment trumps sound, and up your body with all its vigor before the throne. You the perfect one, judged by God almighty. You must smirk before the judgment seat. You must walk with your feather light heart beating out the seconds as you skirt the seraphim, part the Elohim with your steady step, and face the Father in his throne with your eyes beaming their innocence into the infinite gaze of God. And then from his deep everywhere voice "What heaven do you deserve?" You will smile gently: "No less than the highest heaven belongs to my perfection."

            Live nothing less.




Perfection Is Easy


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