Perfectly Imperfect

Tea ceremony is a significant aspect of the Japanese culture and it is during such ceremonies that the Japanese ruling class of the 15th century, loved to flaunt their wealth, they took their tea from detailed Chinese cups preferably at full moon. Zen monk Murata Shuko however, sought to change this trend of mindlessly exhibiting riches into a simpler affair by using simple Japanese-made items. Shuko’s successors transformed the tea ceremonies further by simplifying the rituals and the items used, and embracing the transient element of nature. For instance, rather than use expensively decorated ceramic cups, they used simple, old fashioned ones, and instead of holding the ceremony only at full moon, it became customary to hold the tea ceremony during other phases of the moon. The tea ceremony thus became a tribute to embrace nature’s inherent element of simplicity, impermanence, and imperfection.

Nature itself is inherently simple, impermanent, and imperfect; what makes someone think they can attain perfection. Sometimes I blame the crazy idea of chasing perfection on Hollywood and advertising agencies with their picture perfect advertisements that pop-up in between our favorite TV shows that depict ‘perfect people enjoying life,’ dancing among a crowd of fashion models with ever smiling faces. This uncompromising image of an ideal life; a perfect image of how things ought to be, gives us the illusion that this is how life should be. We try to mimic and mirror this concept in our own lives forgetting that whatever is displayed on our screens is all scripted. We spend fortunes trying to ‘refine and upgrade’ ourselves, our lifestyles, and our environments and then flood the social media with pictures and videos to show the world how exquisite we are.

Perfection is what we are dying to attain; a perfectly symmetrical face, a perfectly sculpted body, perfect skin, perfect hair, perfect jaw line, perfect house, perfect friends, perfect family, perfect spouse, perfect children, or in short a faultlessly perfect existence. But this is not only impractical and exhausting to pursue; it also defies the natural way and processes of life which is perfectly imperfect.

Chasing perfection is like running on a hamster wheel; it’s like being in pursuit of a fantasy of an ultimate state which simply does not exist. The transient nature of the universe and the inevitable fate of a near perfect life confronts’ us; that it eventually falls apart. A ‘perfect looking spouse’ he/she will soon fall prey to old age, a ‘near perfect body’, it will quickly wear out. The more we try to perfect something, the more rigid and fragile it becomes, like Lao Tzu once stated, “it is easier to carry an empty cup than one filled to the brim, the sharper the knife, the easier it is to dull.” Perfectly still water is ruined by a speck of dust or a grain of sand falling into it; if you walk on your toes, too careful not to rattle anything, only a little shove will see you rolling on the floor. Chasing perfection thus seems to be a fool’s errand; it is an impossible feat as there is nothing like absolute perfection; there is always something to be worked on.

Anyone set to attain a state of absolute perfection will not only be disappointed in the end, but is likely to be left anxious, exhausted, depressed, and self-loathing as they burden themselves with an ongoing sense of “never enough,” and the fear of losing whatever imitation of perfection that they have already accomplished. It is like keeping the water in a pond still and crystal clean, forgetting that there will always be animals, rains, earthquakes, and other natural phenomena likely to stir it from its ‘near perfect’ state. We as humans, are not perfectly still, crystal clear ponds, and never will be. Like the calm clear pond analogy, we are all subject to the whims and dictates of nature and fires of inevitable destruction; our physiological, mental, and environmental states are transient and imperfect. Imperfection, not perfection is the natural state. It is only through our imperfect and flawed states that we are able to grow through self-transformation or self acceptance.

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