Friday, April 24, 2009
What is Perfection?
"Give me the best piece of meat you have," said the customer.
"Everything in my shop is the best," replied the butcher. "You cannot find here any piece of meat that is not the best."
At these words Banzan became enlightened.
Life is iterations within interations. Life strives to be the best it can be, to do the best it can. Every lifeform is the best of its kind now. Whether it be a bacterium, plant, animal, or perhaps even a species or quasi-species in the case of viruses, that lifeform is the result of an unbroken lineage of survivors extending back to the formation of this planet and the origin of Life 3.5-4 billion planetary orbits ago. The hawk you see hunting on the fly is striving to be the best hawk it can be so that it can pass its genes on to the next generation. At some time in the distant past, it was a small carnivorous theropod (dinosaur) running around trying to eke out an existence on foot. It developed wings to help it escape predators and catch prey it couldn't outrun without the added thrust of its flapping wings. Eventually, the wings became powerful enough for flight and this dinosaur raptor became what we call a bird raptor. So, today's hawk is striving to create tomorrow's better hawk just as its parents strove to create and teach it to be a better hawk. So it is with all higher lifeforms. This means that perfection is not an ideal, but an inherent property of Life due to evolution and natural selection. It's built into the DNA of every living thing.
As biological perfection is passed on by genetics, instinct, teaching, and play, humans have added another psychological layer to perfection. One can find it in oral and written teachings as well as art. Perfect knowledge is known as wisdom or science. Perfect creations border on art, aesthetically pleasing just for existing, be it a painting, sketch, building, tool, airplane, mathematical equation, or software program. Perfection is the undercurrent of human existence. The Buddhist monk strives for nirvana. The scientist and the monk both strive to perfect his or her knowledge of what reality actually is though the means are different. The perfect general strives to win the war or battle with the fewest casualities on both sides. The perfect diplomat achieves the aims of state through negotiation with the best terms. The perfect ruler wishes to create the most stable and prosperous society with the minimum of struggle and strife, and so on and so forth.
So, some people strive for knowledge and wisdom. Others strive to have families. Yet, others strive for political power and control over others. These are the three forms of immortality - spiritual, genetic, and cultural. Some achieve two of the three, though achieving conscious spiritual immortality seems the most rare. The funny thing is that it may actually be the most common. People crave sex, money, power, and fame. Money, power, and fame are aspects of historical immortality. Sex is genetic immortality because it leads to children. Sex is a physical need, the rest are psychological desires. Whether or not we truly are a conscious immortal entity which lives through these living forms we call bodies, we are already wealthy when we recognize that we are alive now and that birth and death have little meaning. Other than leaving a genetic legacy so that better people than ourselves succeed us, each of us must recognize that we are perfect as we are this instant. Fame and fortune, any historical immortality, will disappear when the individual or civilization dies. Our children's children's children will forget us. The only immortality left is the spiritual, the recognition that every thing and every one, the world, is perfect in this time and place. We have a duty to take care of the natural world, because we are an inherent part of that world. We plunder it at our own peril. The living world around us is our treasure as we ourselves are our own treasure. From The Gospel of Thomas:
3 Jesus said, "If your leaders say to you, 'Look, the (Father's) kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is within you and it is outside you.
When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty."
Yes, but where does the ideal of perfection come from? Is the desire to be better or perfect an inherent property of Life, or is it just a psychological property of the human mind? I am guessing that bettering oneself and hence, attempting to find perfect solutions might be evolutionarily driven and thus an inherent property of all living things.
Nothing/noone is perfect. All have faults under some conditions and at some levels.
Even a perfectly symmetrical snowflake melts thus losing its symmetry.
Yes, but a snowflake may be perfect until it does melt (or is that an illusion of time since at one point it was just water vapor, then snowflake, then liquid -- something appeared from nothing). The same might be said for any animal until it ages past its prime. And there is still the striving or struggle of life to succeed regardless.
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