Be Ye Therefore Perfect. Seriously? Seriously.

My youngest son (4 years old) passed the weight test to climb the 24 foot rock wall at the Atlanta Zoo (40 lb. minimum) the day before yesterday and he made a bee line for the top, rang the bell and belayed down. He never hesitated, he remained focused on the goal and he never relinquished control of his body, mind or heart. I can say without qualification that he was perfect, absolutely perfect in that moment!

Speaking of the “p” word, I find it curious that the mere idea of perfection tends to freak most people out. Those who see perfection as tenable are branded as snobs, idealists or arrogant, while those who are convinced of its impossibility possess the perfect excuse for explaining away every failure under the sun.

The idea that human nature is flawed and that human beings are imperfect is one that proponents of science and religion are drawn to like moths to a flame. In religious circles, there is general agreement that we were once “good” but due to an unfortunate and willful bad decision we became sinners in need of salvation. In scientific circles, the notion that perfection is our birthright is blasphemy because we are evolving from our humble beginnings as self-reproducing RNA toward an ever better, more complex future, albeit one that is likely riddled with chaos and imperfection.

It’s hard to mention perfection without also thinking of a remarkable man who walked the earth some 2,000 years ago, a man who has been in many people’s thoughts ever since. He, more than just about anyone else in the centuries that followed, taught that perfection was possible and available to all who sought it. While his teachings were organized and at times rather tragically twisted into religions and codes of behavior by those who were inspired by his wisdom, I do suggest that anyone who longs to live a creative life spend a little time reviewing the observations on life attributed to him.

At a certain point in his life he was purported to make the injunction: “Be ye therefore perfect…”, an electrifying and polarizing commandment that proved an unpopular thing to say to those living on earth at the time. The shock wave produced by that notion has haunted the consciousness of man for nearly two thousand years, leaving a freshly pressed impression on the minds of men that begs the question from generation to generation: “Is perfection possible?”

I believe that it is. Allow me to explain. For starters, perfection is not what most people think it is. It is not static, fixed, unchanging; neither is it passionless, sterile or detached from the quotidian affairs of men. Instead, it is dynamic, fluid, malleable, commodious, energetic and peaceful. Perfection is a floating band of possibilities, not a linear path of all-or-nothing choices. No matter what you believe or don’t believe in, the stand you take on perfection determines the impact you will have on the world through your living.

Why would one of the most remarkable human beings to grace this planet issue such a command if perfection were not possible? To mock us? To give us something to aim for to keep us off the streets? No! He believed and revealed – from what I can see through the lens of history – that perfection is available to each one.

It can be challenging to see through the matrix of concepts, opinions and beliefs that shroud the perfection revealed at that time and non-religious people often mistakenly throw the baby out with the bath water by saying that religion is bunk and therefore what he offered is not worthy of consideration. But if you take a close look, it’s hard not to leave room for the possibility that just about everyone in the world today has it wrong. How specifically? Well, the widely accepted and chanted mantra: “nobody’s perfect” couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Such mistakes have happened before, haven’t they? Just because the majority believes it to be a certain way, doesn’t mean it is so. No amount of human opinion can overturn the reality of the situation, for logic that proceeds from a faulty premise is flawed, no matter how elegant the structure formed thereby.

Well then, what are the options? As I understand it at this point in my life, the options are as follows:

  1. Refuse to believe that perfection is possible. Claim that “nobody’s perfect” – not you, not me, not anybody – and declare the case dismissed. The options with this choice are: (a) pick apart anyone who comes close. Destroy them if necessary or (b) strive for progress but never perfection.
  2. Believe that perfection is possible but only for a God or gods in human flesh. “They can do it but I cannot really be expected to.” The options at that point are: (a) don’t even bother trying, (b) make a half-hearted attempt, for it is better to die a failure than to never have tried or (c) accept the idea that you can get a free pass somehow without doing the work yourself.
  3. Believe that perfection is possible for anyone and everyone given the proper education. Learn the keys to wisdom – that uncommon sensitivity to the right choice in any situation – and unlock the door to perfection in the circumstances that come your way.

The refusal to accept the possibility of perfection – here and now – is the perfect way to guarantee mediocrity. If perfection is not possible, then so too is:

  1. Being in the right place at the right time
  2. Doing the right thing at the right time
  3. Saying the right thing at the right time (le mot juste)

Why not take a stand on this issue? Why not rise to the call that has echoed through the ages and accept the responsibility for the expression of perfection? You needn’t adhere to one religion or another to be open to the possibility of perfection and the fact that you deny its possibility doesn’t make you scientific.

I have a hunch that we’ve made it much harder for ourselves that we need to, much as an “experienced” adult would let his fears, doubts and convictions stand in the way of climbing a rock wall without hesitation, in the pure and unencumbered fashion of a 4 year old. “Well,” you say “life’s just not that simple.”

Well, maybe you’re right. If you are convinced that perfection is not possible, it is unlikely that you’ll do what is required to reveal it consistently. Conversely, admitting that it is possible is the first and most important step in the process that leads to its consistent revelation in and through you.

40 thoughts on “Be Ye Therefore Perfect. Seriously? Seriously.

  1. I deeply trust into the human potential too, but that includes a sense of humour ( if not other emotions) observing the smart ways of avoiding the humble essential.

    Some might associate themselves with the sun gods, I don’t mind being the toilette lady of the unconscious.

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    1. If my history is correct, the idea of heliocentrism was a polarizing theory that proved to be true – and unifying – over time. The truth is never in conflict with itself. By the way, I agree that the Polyanna approach you reference creates lump under the carpet and that “eternal smiling positivism”is not the answer. We have very real problems on earth that require very real, and not superficial, solutions. My point is, however, that I feel we are up to the task as a race.

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  2. Totalitarian regimes, anorexics, addicts are obsessed with “perfection”.They cling to the delusion of controlling the interactive diversity of life.
    How much narcissistic projection is in the projected wish of perfection achievement of the own children?
    Philosophically the question appears evident: how does “perfect”humans handle “imperfection”. Historically we could have learn a bit of prudence with such terminology!

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    1. Looked at from another angle and you see that they are actually obsessed with imperfection, often a projection of their own. Further, each one of the imbalanced situations you cite refers to someone who holds a static vision in mind for what perfect would be. Perfection is inclusive, not divisive. The perfect use of imperfection, which is the starting point available most of the time after all, is quite simply the best possible use given the factors at hand. The gulf that stands between most people and the expression of perfection is the idea that “‘it’ or ‘I’ or ‘that’ would be perfect if only…”

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  3. James

    Great stuff, Gregg. Very inspiring and thought provoking. In my job, being at the right place of the right time is an art, when I think about it as perfection, it makes the mind whirl as to the possibilities!

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  4. Joshua

    WOW,
    You did that P-E-R-F-E-C-T!! Flawless, my heart leapt for joy while reading this!!!
    I wish everyone on earth had the opporunity to honestly consider this simple matter that the majority has made so complicated,
    Pressure system what pressure system? lol
    Great time to be alive and awake.
    Love to you, Tell Melissa I send my best to her also.
    You ROCK!!

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  5. J.J.Mc

    This is one subject that has always perplexed me. I didn’t think a gauntlet was thrown down to give us something we could never do; frustrate us until we expire. But then when perfection was described it was always something quantifiable such as grades, scores, income or something completely subjective such as living up to some esoteric standard or ideal.
    Your explanation is so interesting. I think for the first time I can wrap my head around it. “Perfection is a floating band of possibilities, not a linear path of all-or-nothing choices.”…it is the finest revelation available given the factors at hand.”
    That makes sense to me and I feel I have experienced perfection and missed it many times as well. I will give this more thought. I also appreciated the other comments. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  6. Kolya

    Thanks for having the guts to broach such a thought provoking and challenging topic. As always, I appreciate your fair and balanced viewpoint. I’ve found that Perfection is best enjoyed naturally, without trying to mold it into some preconceived notion of how myself or others think it should be. Appreciation is instrumental in being able to see perfection in all things.

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  7. Leni

    We often will hear of professional athletes who have risen up out of the ranks to rise to the top in a competition. In interviews they will express an experience of perfection, of being in the ‘zone’, where every possible factor was lined up in their favor to win. I’ve heard of the term of the ‘sweet spot’ where one feels anything is possilbe for perfection. Many philosphies teach of the importance of being focused 100% in the moment in each circumstance and perhaps here is where we may experience all of that what is the wise, the true, the highest point of perfection where all is possible. There is also nothing more rewarding than in assisting and supporting others to know and find that potential perfection within themselves.

    As always, thanks for these amazing posts!

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  8. Foxglove

    I tend to agree with this definition of perfection – that it is a state of being, highly contextual, where the expression of wisdom in life is at the highest degree possible. Thus it is a fluid gamut of potential, and even current scientific thinking in physics points to this notion.
    I certainly appreciate your well thought-out ideas on this subject. Have a great day!

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      1. Foxglove

        Physicist David Bohm wrote an interesting little book called ‘Wholeness and the Implicate Order’ which I enjoyed very much and made quite an impression on me a few years back, where he expands his interpretations of quantum mechanics. A journalistic book written by Lynne McTaggart, called ‘The Field’ was pretty interesting too.

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  9. Colin

    Wow, this is quite a call to action. The ability to be be at, say and do the right thing at the right time would in fact be perfection. The fact that you consider perfection to be a “floating band of possibilities” entirely changes the paradigm for what it is and isn’t possible to do. Looking at it this way, it makes sense why people would think a static perfection is unattainable, because it is! But who’s to say that even if we approached a situation in two different ways, that we didn’t handle it perfectly for where we were at that time? The sensitivity that is needed to act in a perfect manner is not an impossible thing to achieve. What it takes is dedication to doing the right thing even when that thing is uncomfortable, and caring about others more than yourself. Not in a martyrish way, but in an honest way. Thanks!

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    1. Perfection is often viewed as sexless, boring and unchanging. I’ve seen many perfect scenes in nature that were perfect because of the lack of the aforementioned characteristics. Perfection rocks!

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  10. Brad

    Great post….might have to read that over a few times to absorb the full impact…the implications are exciting!
    And climbing is a perfect metaphor

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  11. Dividing life in such polarising therms is not innocent (what about the millions of grey shades in between..to neglect?).I wish him lots of self acceptance for his “imperfect”(whatever that means!) moments of life worth his attention!
    One day society will realise that linear up climbing is not our optimal human potential and that it can be misused as avoidance facing the humble social task on earth.

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    1. Colleen

      After reading a number of Mr. Hake’s balanced blogs on so many subjects, I don’t think anyone has to wonder if his son will be supported during his imperfect moments, and I do agree to the premise that people are taught from a young age that we are imperfect by nature. How then, starting with such a low bar, are we to succeed at anything? I don’t want my child to think he’s doomed from the beginning and I don’t believe we are. Circumstances are one thing in life, but I believe just about anything is possible and then move from that standard on into my life.

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      1. Very kind words, Colleen. My wife and I have taken great care to introduce our boys to the remarkable capacity for the expression of life and perfection in the world around us. From the smallest details, like the wings of a ladybug, to the largest, the majestic galaxy that enfolds our planet, perfection springs eternal. To me perfection is not the ultimate, blemish-free expression of any given thing, rather, it is the finest revelation available given the factors at hand. You might find yourself more limited in some times versus others, and each person on earth has a different set of personal and contextual limitations through which they must work. Giving it your all, making your best effort an so forth – no matter who limited you may feel or actually be – goes a long way in allowing for the manifestation of perfection. Typically speaking, much more than is revealed is possible, but quite often what is revealed, though it is less than what could have been if factors had been more forgiving, is just the perfect thing.

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    2. You’re absolutely right. The expression of perfection is not linear and I hope that the picture, while saying a thousand words, didn’t overtop the essence of the 1,116 words actually typed in my message today. Perfection is the best expression of being or true inner character possible, given the factors at hand. We live in a world full of limitations and our capacities of body, mind and heart have likely been damaged and scarred in the process of dealing with the “humble social tasks on earth” you mention. As for pointing to polarizing themes, it is in my nature to shed light on areas that have been long overlooked. Thanks for your comment!

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  12. DeeDee

    Wow it is great that your sons were able to have that experience with that kind of support backing it. Too often I’ve seen parents get caught up in fear or competition in a situation like that. It occurs to me that overlays like that are where we begin to develop convoluted ideas of perfection. Thanks for your perspective!

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    1. It’s funny that you mention the parents. While we were standing there waiting for my sons’ turn a mother was yelling at her older son (who must have been 10 or 11) that the little girl next to him started when he did and was way higher than he was. Perfection to me is the best possible outcome given the factors at hand. For that little boy, who was obviously giving it his all, perfection was 19 feet from the top. We can compel, inspire and encourage within reason, but really, who are we to judge?

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  13. Aimee

    Fantastic post – this line really stood out to me: “No matter what you believe or don’t believe in, the stand you take on perfection determines the impact you will have on the world through your living.” Amazing starting point for beginning to look at what my stance on perfection actually is. Have a great day!

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