Perfection

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. John 1:1-5

The perfect word. The perfect creation. The perfect artist. The perfect life. Perfection!  That’s right, the gods have challenged me to a competition.  And, I’ve humbly accepted their challenge.  Indeed, I consider it a matter of some worth, as confused as my own insignificant life may be.  Yet, wouldn’t you figure; it just had to be a deity that would mount such challenge in the first place.  And to me, of all people; as if my opinion mattered one whit, which, as we know, it does not.  In any event, the gods have chosen me, an unregenerate disbeliever, to enjoin a competition that they have been engaged in amongst themselves for millennia now. In all likelihood, it was probably the sensed indwelling of deity that gave birth to similar competitions at the very origins of kingship.  Our challenge today remains the same, this age-old question about perfection. What is it? Is the quest for perfection the answer to our problems and our prayers, or is it simply a confused tilting at windmills? Worse, could it perhaps be the very floor beneath our current dire predicament?

Of course, those kings of old – sanctioned by, or perhaps incarnations of deity – were perceived as perfect themselves without any confusion on the part of their subjects. At least, that is the image these divine sovereigns sought to project. We can trace such self-conceptions back to the earliest civilizations in Asia and the ancient Near East, the old Egyptian kingdom among them. Just ask the current would-be-king of Egypt, Mohammed Mursi. He surely fancies himself an incarnation of the Sun God, Ra, or perhaps, Ptah, the creator god of that Old Kingdom hierarchy. Oh, of course, how ignorant of me: I should have realized.  Mursi must rather see himself as an instantiation of the prophet Mohammed, the divine messenger of Allah. Accordingly, no one should have the right to question Mursi’s decisions, because as divinely ordained, they are perfect in every respect, thus absolutely binding upon all Egyptians.  Oh, the majesty! Oh, the horror!

A cautionary note to the American hegemon regarding Egypt and other covert CIA operations in MENA: be careful what battles you wage, you may just get more than you bargained for. It seems as though our ‘Arab Spring’ has turned into a nightmarish Islamic Winter. The Moslem Brotherhood has assumed control of Egypt, and its newly sanctified ruler is taking matters into his own divinely-sanctioned hands. The budding theocrat has decreed that his decisions are not reviewable by any human tribunal, judicial or otherwise. Well, I guess you can imagine how this situation disturbed not merely the Egyptian judges; the Egyptian people as well have again taken to the streets, now without the clandestine support of the American regime.

Now, where were we?  Oh yes, how could I forget!  Given, this assumed divine right of the king, perfection must have been evident in the very structure of his kingdom as well as the trajectory of his reign. In enforcing his divine will and reaffirming the perfect world-order he sought to maintain, the king was occasionally required to prove his god mightier than the god of the opposing team… err, I mean, an opposing king.  In this respect, the king firmly believed that deity resided within his person exclusively; and his subjects believed likewise.  In fact, similar presumptions still dwell within our own leaders, their warriors (remember those US soldiers in Afghanistan using “Jesus rifles”), and their wars – holy or otherwise – waged kingdom against kingdom, state against state, nation against nation, believer against infidel, the chosen ones against the barbarians, the perfect race against the imperfectable, the perfect democracy against the commies, or the perfectly righteous against immoral terrorists. In other words, some intuition of divine inherence, sacred calling, or moral rectitude lay at the foundation of each of these defenses of “perfection.”   Just bear witness to the 450 Palestinian children injured, and fifty killed, in Gaza this week by a treacherous and sanctimonious Israeli leadership desperate to assert its “divinely-promised” right to a homeland.

Of course, this co-inherence of concepts has a rather long and storied history in the curriculum of the West. As the challenge itself suggests, divinity and perfection seem to go hand in hand in our culture; being perfect, in some respects synonymous with realizing the godliness dwelling within me – becoming god-like. That is, after all, what at-one-ment was all about, reversing the effects of the Fall. In fact, the entire trajectory of the Western curriculum can be understood in one respect as a footnote in the pursuit of perfection and perfectability, justified by a firm belief in the personal possession or indwelling of a divinely-inspired truth. Even the Medieval theological proofs for the existence of a Christian god lay in their perception of a perfect cosmos, or a universe that acts according to precision clockwork. And, whether it is the de facto Judeo-Christian worldview that underlies our drive to global hegemony, or the Islamic terrorist’s conception of a divine struggle or Jihad; both represent a sacred pursuit of perfection as dictated by their respective sacred texts, grounded in the unfailing truth accessible only to the faithful.

So when someone tells me to find the ‘deity within me’ or pursue a path of ‘personal perfection,’ I just cannot help but shudder, and then cringe. Various iterations of these concepts have driven Western civilization and its curriculum since the beginning, some six thousand years ago. Like the alchemists of old – seeking to transform base metals into gold – the project is fraught with misconceptions and inconsistency. First and foremost, the longing for perfection is an illusion – propagated to control the unwashed masses pursuing something that nowhere exists – it is the same fairytale that has led us to the precipice we are rapidly approaching.  And I am not here referring to the recently invented “fiscal cliff” alone.  That itself is another fairytale, a papier-mâché construction created by sleight of hand charlatans – businessmen and politicians – foisted upon us by a media circus in order to justify the continuing abuse of the citizenry, and the financial shenanigans of our elitist class. Let us bear witness to Lloyd Blankfein’s summary of the CEO Council recommendations to POTUS, proposing that Washington cut spending on the poor and the elderly, while their companies enrich, nay, engorge, themselves on excessive profits, tax loopholes, and public funds which they have looted from the public treasury.  And remember, Lloyd told us only recently that he is a messenger of divinity, having found the deity within himself, he is only “doing God’s work” for the people. So much for the pursuit of perfection.

The call to encourage that longing for personal perfection, and find the “deity within you” – these are very subjective, if not delusional suggestions that can only lead to a cacophony of individualized, even solipsistic responses. They are the same encouragements that inspire the jihadist, the crusader, patriotic warrior, the zealot, the over-achieving entrepreneur, the captain of industry, or the lone and lunatic rifleman.

In the modern world, this quest for “perfection of the self” always implies proselytizing for some form of fantastic and wishful thinking – whether through the pulpit, personal charisma, or the marketing appeal of the propaganda from Madison Avenue. In other words, our gods are no longer just old men in the sky propping up our earthly kingdoms; they are now our businessmen, our scientists and our technologists, promising to deliver a perfected life… a future free from illness, from manual labor, and from death. These are remnants of a missionary teleology painting a world that is perfect and glorious beyond conception – where all of the dirtiness of embodied existence, together with the inconveniences of nature have been cleaned-up and sanitized away. As one of our commenters suggested earlier this week in discussing Andy Warhol’s art, perhaps we long to become like machines. In any event, it is the promise of a future if not of this world then certainly in the kingdom to come at the right hand of one of our gods.  Amen.

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162 Responses to Perfection

  1. Ivy Mike says:

    Are you sayin’ to Take this Buddhism/Christianity and shove it, I ain’t working here no more? I thought so! 😉

    P.S. Zerzan addresses faux perfection too, as follows:

    “Synonymous with the rise of ‘higher’ civilizations and world religions…who required moral perfection rather than the earlier ceremonies…the new religions tended to sever bonds with the manifold, profane world…A Buddhist image represents ‘breaking through the roof;’ that is, transcending the mundane realm…the development of individual religious identity, as distinct from one’s place in the tribe and in the natural world, was characteristic of Axial consciousness.”

    ~John Zerzan
    The Iron Grip of Civilization: the Axial Age
    Twilight of the Machines (2008)

  2. George Drosdowich says:

    Very well written Sandy but you continue to rebel and not see the Divine Indwelling within yourself. Its presence in you is apparent to me.

    Your pal,

    George Drosdowich

    • kulturcritic says:

      Thanks for your comment and your faith in me, George. (Your very first comment on the site!!!) But, perhaps we need to reconceptualize the entire idea of divinity — (I opt for destroying the word and its derivatives completely: must rid ourselves of bad habits) — and recover a sense of that wonder at our primal intertwining with the rest of the animate and inanimate world. That is an ‘in-dwelling’ and an ‘ek-stasis’ I can live with! My best to you, my friend. Sandy

      • Greg Knepp says:

        I think George has a point; others will see the divine in you before you recognize it yourself. Spiritual experience seems purer when it is unconscious (“Allow the little children to come unto me, for they…)

        As for your quote, The Book of John is essentially a Greek tragedy, and, as such, is a bit heavy and contrived. The Greeks knew how to market ideas, and were thus largely responsible for the initial success of Christianity. (Roman organizational skills along with Christianity’s comparatively accessible theological precepts assured the faith’s ultimate primacy).

        In short, I don’t put much stock in John. In fact, the NT itself is rather drab and predictable. There are, of course, exceptional pieces: I like the Book of Mark and Acts of the Apostles. The Book of James should be required reading, and The Revelation is a hoot! But beyond that, I’d stick with the OT. The OT is full of great stuff.

        • kulturcritic says:

          Actually, Greg, I believe it was more the Christian apologists, trying to woo the local culture, that were so good at adopting Greek and Roman philosophical concepts, together with a vociferous rejection of their own Jewish heritage, that assured their acceptance into Greek and Roman society. It was not a mysterious, exclusivistic faith, but a universal appeal using all means available and necessary to spread the word. Full steam ahead; everyone else be damned. And, be my guest to read any scriptures you please; I have no vested interest in your continuing religious education, nor am I really open to any suggested readings at the present moment. But, you are always welcome to entertain us with your insights. Sandy

      • derekthered says:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divine_(performer)
        i’m confused, what are you all talking about?

        • Greg Knepp says:

          I don’t know exactly what everyone else is talking about. My only point is that the famous quote from John in Sandy’s article is, in my view, great prose (almost poetry) but lousy religion. It’s too polished – too marketable. It lacks spiritual breathing space – a closed system, if you will.

  3. How sporting of you to take up a challenge, Brother Sandy! :o)
    May I offer up a “play”? The first piece is something I began writing a couple of days ago and the other is an unpublished response to a letter to the editor from a couple of years ago.

    There exists a lot of criticism of religion and its teachings in our world today. But is it the fault of religion or of the weaknesses of those who approach it? This is a rephrase of Jonathan Swift: The world has just enough religion to seemingly foster hate among us, but not enough to guide us toward love for one another. Surely there are many examples known of heroic individuals who have approached the message and practice of a religion seeking to be challenged and guided toward greater love and truth. On the other hand, the critics of religion have accurately taken note of those who sought from a religion only the messages that would serve to bolster their perverse values, hatreds, and egotism, while conveniently ignoring the rest.

    The world’s religios creeds offer what they have to those who search. Equally important to examining that which is offered by the religion is an honest examination of what one seeks from it.
    * * * *

    Nancy Stults proclaims “religion blinds us and makes us stupid,” her evidence being “what is happening in the Middle East.” Ironically, a statement like this only serves to enflame matters such as those in the Middle East. Religion is a signpost, a clarion call to a more inclusive, kind and generous way of being in the world. Religious experience can speak to a heart ready for redemption, like the slave ship captain who was once lost but then was found–once blind but now able to see.

    I will agree that the signpost can, and has been, taken up to be wielded as a weapon of terror and cruelty by some throughout the ages, but I think one can admit that it is the ignorance, arrogance, fear and selfishness that fosters the bad behavior and foolish thinking whether it be among the religion-weapon wielders or the power-hungry cutthroat capitalists. If all the religions, created to point man toward loving and finding God, were suddenly banned from Earth, it would be like tossing all the knives out of the kitchen.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Perhaps we should be eating without knives, brother Ron. All my best, in peace. Sandy

      • Collapse Watch says:

        There is something to eating with your hands. It’s part of that necessary touch, and it applies to more than just touching each other. We need to touch what we forage and kill and that includes putting it in our mouth with our hands. As laughable as it sounds, it’s probably why dipping (as in chips and dip) is so popular in Western culture. Sure, it’s a washed-down version, but people are getting intimate with their high fructose corn syrup. It triggers something primal in them, even if the slugs are unwitting to it.

      • As a cook, the knives in my kitchen are used in food preparation: chopping, slicing, spreading, etc. This is what I had in mind with my analogy. Fire could serve well, and has through the ages, as an analogy for the power of the divine. Fire can warm you when you are cold and cook your food, but if you know little about how to put it to good use or you decide to play around with it, well, someone could get hurt. There’s always more to learn and plenty of life lessons to be receptive to for the learning to happen.

    • Ivy Mike says:

      “the religion-weapon wielders or the power-hungry cutthroat capitalists”

      Both are horrid examples, of course; but don’t forget the most dangerous hairless great ape of all—the Leftist-progressivist-collectivist.

      “The leftist is motivated less by distress at society’s ills than by the need to satisfy his drive for power by imposing his solutions on society.”
      ~The convicted environmentalist formerly known as Ted
      Industrial Society and Its Future: The danger of leftism

      • derekthered says:

        you know i like your links, but i must take exception to this “leftist” stuff (though teddy does make some good points), i have never been motivated by anything other than pure self-interest, i have always just wanted to make just a little bit more (ok, a lot more) of the value i produce. sure we know about the Gulag, we know full well the excesses engendered by socialism, just means we have to be better.

        • Ivy Mike says:

          “value i produce

          Production—symbolized by the hammer ☭ sickle—is the root problem. Most leftist-progressivist[Jared Diamond’s term]-collectivist types have never been honest enough to admit that easy lesson from anthropology/archeology.

          “Agriculture is the birth of production, complete with its essential features and deformation of life and consciousness.”

          ~John Zerzan, Agriculture: The Demon Engine of Civilization

          • derekthered says:

            “humanity itself will also become a domesticate of this order as the world of production processes us as much as it degrades and deforms every other natural system”
            yup, the internalization of the capitalist ethos, the objectification of ones-self, thinking of ourselves as just another thing, i begin to understand. actually, my thinking has been moving in this direction for awhile, and i don’t think many appreciate the ramifications.
            this is new to me, haven’t had much time to read like i used to.

          • derekthered says:

            i’ve read the Zerzan, much of it makes sense. forget what the ideologues say, Marx, Luxembourg, and such, could not socialism be thought of as a way to get back to the ethos of sharing as exhibited by the hunter-gatherer clans?

            • kulturcritic says:

              Of course, sharing is an important element in the lifeway; but, the larger question that begs to be answered is how to recover the mode of consciousness and perception that reigned then.

            • Ivy Mike says:

              One must realize the stone age Original Affluent Society wasn’t simpering, oversocialized, codependent socialists sharing.

              It was a society of sovereigns sharing.

              • “autonomous and sovereign” (Service 1975)
              • “autonomous and sovereign” (Boehm 1999)

              Sovereigns who could go out in the forest and make it by themselves, often during rites-of-passage where an individual proved his sovereign worth. They shared, not because it was necessary to survival, but because it improved their chances.

              • derekthered says:

                so i took a look at the passage you cited, i may agree with some points there especially as regards what i call the “supposed left”, much of what passes for critical thought fits the argument. here’s the thing, i can only speak for myself here, i do feel powerless, but not like a loser, i don’t agree with the classic top down approach of most socialists, i don’t think we can twiddle with the dials of the machine state and fix it, hence i am posting here. the apologetic propounded by these academics described have no purchase on my ideas, as i have only been exposed to them in a haphazard fashion due to my lack of formal education.
                now, i see the truth of what zerzan and ted describe, i do, but if i am in the forest? i want tools, i will cut down trees for fire or shelter. i would like to see a decentralized system of people living on the land using animals for power instead of machines. i am not a purist in any sense of the word. it is one thing to identify the roots of the problem, another to devise a workable alternative.
                yeah, i just drove to the outlet mall and bought a pair of boots made in china. nevertheless, i do appreciate the criticism, reading the few links i have provides some groundwork and understanding of some other things i have read.

                • Ivy Mike says:

                  “people living on the land using animals for power”

                  Domestication of animals and plants (agriculture) is the root problem of agricultural civilization.

                  And agriculture is never “decentralized;” the leftist ideal of agrarian anarchy is an oxymoron.

                  “Agriculture creates government.” ~Richard Manning, Against the Grain, p. 73

                  • derekthered says:

                    you may be right, but that’s just how i am, and i wouldn’t know about “agrarian anarchy” and isn’t “leftist” a bit non-specific? sounds a bit like a tag, bit cramping.

      • seawriter88 says:

        Coming up with solutions to problems isn’t by definition driven by the desire for power. Sometimes it’s just driven by the desire to find solutions.

        • Sea, this rings true to me. But for people whose world views see the gaining and holding of power as the essential basis for living in the world, they will most likely find your statement to be naive, foolish or idealistic.

          • Ivy Mike says:

            “people whose world views see the gaining and holding of power”

            I assume you refer to the power hungry tyrants whose political philosophy “strips them [men] of their natural character and subjugates them to the power of the united individuals.”

            Die Deutsche Ideologie by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

        • Mick Stupp says:

          Solutions are found before a problem is created for it. This is the high tech racket which attempts to convince the masses to comsume the latest “gee whiz” technology. The campaign has been very successfully transforming people into dysfunctional zombies who muddle through life while looking at various types of devices with screens as they try to manage their ADD afflicted thought processes. I am in the game myself as I manipulate what not so long ago was the very impressive touch screen. The point of diminishing returns in technology has been passed and now the servant is the master.

          • kulturcritic says:

            Ahhh! As you prepare our readers for next week’s offering! Tonight around midnite! Thanks, Mick

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  4. Ivy Mike says:

    “destroying the word”

    Only when Culture is destroyed via Civilization Aversion Therapy can HFCJ—High Fructose Corn Jesuddha—be destroyed. Until then, most individuals will rely on their Divinsulin Pumps to cope, even if you don’t need one.

  5. Martin says:

    Would that we were all, from the beginning, taoist in our natures – i.e.; nothing is divine except everything.

  6. Malthus says:

    We stepped out of perfection 30,000 years ago and have been trying to get back to the garden ever since then and all the concepts, ideas, isms, theories and everything else has failed miserably. 30 to 40,000 years ago the human brain increased in size dramatically all because of according to one theory of dance. language was invented somewhere around that same time and we have convinced ourselves we can talk our way back. Maybe we can dance our way out of this mess. Something to consider.

  7. seawriter88 says:

    Religion might be the ultimate example of the contradictions of humanity. Almost all religions are based on good concepts (being good, doing good, acting good, etc.), yet almost all wars originated from religious differences, especially if you count kings and other rulers as religious, believing that they have some sort of divine power vested in them. Yet at the same time there is evidence, circumstantial as it may be, of divine powers out there, somewhere, leading us as individuals to connect with each other, share ideas, being in the right place at the right time, etc. I think that thoughts can travel in ways unseen and unproven, and we influence each other with or without technology or even spoken words, and each of us, somehow, has a role to play in this crazy falling-apart world. One thing that irks me is the Six-Sigma “Practicing Perfection” people who are trying to belittle everyone who doesn’t follow their corporate plan. But that’s a minor issue. What needs to be done is to find non-religious, non-political solutions that either transcend religion or can work with any religion. When the collapse happens, the more people who are ready, the more likely humanity is to survive.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Define “divine”… seawriter!!! And don’t worry about the Six Sigma circle jerk at GE and other corporate slavecamps; they are just breaking rocks and comparing the pretty colors.

      • seawriter88 says:

        Divine might be the wrong word to use; too many different definitions and connotations associated with it. When I mentioned “divine powers” as possibly guiding us, I was thinking along the lines of “The Force” in Star Wars.

          • Collapse Watch says:

            Touché!

            One of the best scenes ever. It gets to the heart of everything discussed, especially at it relates to Zerzan. Life cannot be experienced through symbolic derivatives such as books, film and the internet, no matter how hard we try to fill the gaping void of disassociation with these increasingly clever but feeble attempts. We must return to Eden for that, but it appears a cleansing is in order before we walk naked in the bliss of its perfection (sorry, flog me) once again. Perhaps we once had it, not because we coveted it, but precisely because we didn’t. And then one day, for one reason or perhaps many reasons, we took it for granted and sought to take matters into our own hands. To covet. To seek perfection rather than accepting it and allowing it to flow freely. As a result, we’ve been trying to fix everything ever since, and each iteration of fixing only creates more fixes that are needed until we are so mired in a tangled quagmire of deceit, escape seems impossible. And those who feel it cry out. Others who try not to feel it, medicate and distract themselves with all manner of device, or should we say vice? We fucked ourselves. We didn’t know a good thing when we had it, and that initial tragedy is the source of all tragedy in this world we have created to replace the former blissful world that only asked one thing from us…acceptance. For most of us here, it’s too late, but it’s not too late for all….if we can believe in anything, is that not a worthy belief…to get back to that place…that mythical garden.

            • kulturcritic says:

              Return is always regenerating…. But, how to return? How to recover that ecstasy that was lost? That is my constant question.

              • Ivy Mike says:

                Most everybody has spoken of or heard about how the hairless Great Ape is going Back to the Stone Age. Hardly anybody (except the Swiss, who appear to still have functional amygdalas) will get there successfully without one of these.

              • Malthus says:

                On the lighter side when I go shopping for food I imagine myself walking into the store wearing a lion cloth, carrying a spear, and something to carry my gathering in. It can be fun sliding along avoiding the zombies walking about ( although I know they all have hopes and dreams so am not really judging just pretending they are cave bears, lions, and some even look like Mammoths. Just enjoying the day of hunting and gathering though the imagination and that may be the only way to return.

                • kulturcritic says:

                  Ha, ha, ha!!! You gotta send me a picture of you in a loin cloth, LOL!! Malthus. What a hoot!!

                  • Malthus says:

                    All in the mind Sandy as is everything else according to the quantum mechanics. So one must be aware if the imagination is something your mind is creating or if it is someone else’s dream put on you for control. Not meaning you Sandy but everyone. The imagination can be really liberating or can feel like shackles.

                    • kulturcritic says:

                      You cannot believe in the world as given, and believe in quantum mechanics at the same time; we can’t have it both ways, Malthus, so I prefer to accept the (natural) world as given. At least that is my current position. LOL

                    • Malthus says:

                      Sure you can. It just that you may not be aware of both at the same time. Something to do with the ego.

  8. cliffkrolick says:

    These last two posts, certainly seem to address the topic at hand a little clearer for me.
    Perfection is subjective. Does it hold any water or doesn’t it? The answer that seems to ring in my book is both. Why label anything? why not let all our experience remain in the realm of the unknown. Why need all the answers? Have all the right stuff? or wrong stuff. Is it possible to exist outside of the straight jacket. Can anything exist outside of the realm of subjectivity?

  9. derekthered says:

    ok, i’ll take this on, first off all the abrahamic religions are messianic, my way or the highway, come on, it’s the truth. words like unbeliever, infidel, heretic, apostate, damned, it’s all there. of course anybody can believe whatever they want, but these religions have rules, if you don’t go by the rules? can you be said to be an adherent? all this is beside the point, these are not our god, our god is capital, plain and simple.
    what does the nyse look like? an ancient temple, that’s what. Corinthian, Doric, Stella!!!!!!
    Stella! let your inner Stanley out, that’s what i say.
    but seriously, capital according to dear old uncle karl is but a collection of dead labor, and what do we place highest in our panoply? capital. capitalsim is naught but a death cult, this is our god. feel free to disagree, because you definitely are, free that is.
    divinity? perfection? meaningless concepts, shadows, phantasms. a tree has no name for itself, though i can’t be sure, i don’t speak tree, far as i know, which just goes to illustrate the point, we call stuff what we want, it’s pretty much all made up. would be nice to know one would live forever, or would it? would be nice to have certainty, i haven’t found it. death and taxes? anyone? anyone? Bueller?
    very interesting posts here.

  10. javacat says:

    From depravity to perfection in one week! Or maybe they’re two sides of the same coin.

    If our gods are perfect and the leaders are, too, citizenry requires no thought. Accepting perfection in either abdicates personal responsibility. It is separation from self, the other writ large.

    Perfection and imperfection are both false entities. Perfection is the ultimate external goal, ultimately unreachable, ultimately false, but usually not seen until it’s ultimately too late. Perfection is constant judgment by an externally devised measure, ultimately internalized. Scan the headlines of homepage ads: “Find your perfect mate.” “The perfect dress for the holidays! “What’s the perfect pet for you?” A perfect 10. A perfect game.

    Perfection is a straightjacket. We freeze before the blank page and the empty canvas. We search for just the right opening line, but by the time we find it, the object of our desire has walked out the door. Perfection insists that there is only one ultimately right option. The Way. The single path to redemption. Perfection especially implies stasis while an authentic, sensually lived life is change, constant change. The striving for perfection drives us either to the potential of the future or mires us in the nostalgia of the past. It is the nail in the coffin: We’re perfectly dead.

  11. robindatta says:

    Then, of course, there are the non-theistic religions, Buddhism, Jainism, and non-dual Vedanta.

    The Diamond Sutra – A New Translation by Alex Johnson, Chapter 14:

    Such a person will be able to awaken pure faith because they have ceased to cherish any arbitrary notions of their own selfhood, other selves, living beings, or a universal self. Why? Because if they continue to hold onto arbitrary conceptions as to their own selfhood, they will be holding onto something that is non-existent. It is the same with all arbitrary conceptions of other selves, living beings, or a universal self. These are all expressions of non-existent things. Buddhas are Buddhas because they have been able to discard all arbitrary conceptions of form and phenomena, they have transcended all perceptions, and have penetrated the illusion of all forms.”

    Even Kabbalah at its core is non-dual: the Yechidah is indistinguishable from Ein Sof.

    • kulturcritic says:

      robindatta – seems to me there is still a concept of perfection in all of these, although the concept of a supreme deity may be absent.

    • Ivy Mike says:

      “…transcended all perceptions…”

      Who wants to do that? Perceiving the Sensuous is what we evolved to do, as David Abrams points out:

      “…from the perspective of our embodied, animal awareness, perception is always experienced as an interactive, reciprocal participation.”

      ~David Abrams | wildethics.org
      The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World

      “…penetrated the illusion of all forms…”

      And Derrick Jensen addresses this attempt to cope with civilization by such Eastern escapism.

      “Premise Sixteen: The material world is primary. This does not mean that the spirit does not exist, nor that the material world is all there is. It means that spirit mixes with flesh. It means also that real world actions have real world consequences. It means we cannot rely on Jesus, Santa Claus, the Great Mother, or even the Easter Bunny to get us out of this mess. It means this mess really is a mess, and not just the movement of God’s eyebrows. It means we have to face this mess ourselves. It means that for the time we are here on Earth—whether or not we end up somewhere else after we die, and whether we are condemned or privileged to live here—the Earth is the point. It is primary. It is our home. It is everything. It is silly to think or act or be as though this world is not real and primary. It is silly and pathetic to not live our lives as though our lives are real.

      ~Derrick Jensen
      Endgame, Vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization

      • kulturcritic says:

        Well documented, Ivy… and here is John Donne weighing in:

        From The Ecstasy

        As our blood labours to beget Spirits, as like souls as it can ; Because such fingers need to knit That subtle knot, which makes us man ;

        So must pure lovers’ souls descend To affections, and to faculties, Which sense may reach and apprehend, Else a great prince in prison lies.

        To our bodies turn we then, that so Weak men on love reveal’d may look ; Love’s mysteries in souls do grow, But yet the body is his book.

        • Ivy Mike says:

          What a tragic story behind John Donne’s ode to jailbait! I can appreciate his frankly venal verse about Man the Hunter; the chaser of both game and girls.

          • venari (L.) To hunt, chase sex (venus, venereal, ven, wen, win)
          • venari (L.) To hunt, chase food (venery, venation, venatic, venison)

          • kulturcritic says:

            Mike – have no idea what “Ode” you are talking about here. Is this a joke?

            • Ivy Mike says:

              John Donne secretly married a 17yo minor (Anne More), was thrown into jail, and later wrote The Ecstasy about his love of her.

              • javacat says:

                It may have been opposition of family more than age that drove the jailing. But 12 children in 16 years? I can’t imagine.

                • kulturcritic says:

                  Sounds a bit energetic. NO?

                  • javacat says:

                    A bit?! 😉 It seems they lived the passion of the poem.

                    • kulturcritic says:

                      But; all the good hot sex aside. I do believe the good poet Donne was also hitting upon something else of great import.

                      “Because such fingers need to knit that subtle knot which makes us man.”

                      I do not even think Merleau-Ponty is as poetic or as effective in bringing to life the intertwining self-body-world as John Donne is in that briefest of notations. Call me stupid… but I love it; almost as much as I love the back-story of sex with his 17 year old. LOL

              • kulturcritic says:

                Wow!!! I had no idea. This is wonderful insight for me to have. I loved the poem for itself, not its genesis.

                • javacat says:

                  The forbidden and the sacrifice add powerful aspects to what was impassioned love. The poem to me evokes beautifully that dissolution of boundaries, the intermingling of two beings on all levels, and what that communion releases.

                  On a more pragmatic note (and not to ruin any steamy back stories): Given the era, would it not have been more common for young women (aka, girls) to marry, and marry older men?

          • javacat says:

            Ah, well, both are appetites, no? And probably, if we want to stretch a theme a bit, there’s a dance between the pursuer and the pursued.

  12. Greg Knepp says:

    Perfection is not only subjective, but can only exist within a paradigm of discrimination – a hierarchal order of bad, fair, good, better, best – based on culturally accepted conventions. This urge to discriminate seems natural – though not exclusive – to the human animal, and is the root cause of much misery, as well as much of what we call progress. It is a trick of evolution that survival mechanisms don’t always have to feel good; just ask the male Praying Mantis.

    The second creation story in Genesis (it is the older of the two stories but was placed second for literary and perhaps political reasons) is definitive on the topic of perfection. There are no gradations of ‘good’ in The Garden; all is equally good, so the very concept of perfection dose not exist. The fruit of ‘The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’ is verbotten. Eve, however, wants more than good, so she partakes of the forbidden fruit, which she finds is also good – no surprise here! The curse, she discovers, is neither in the tree nor in the fruit, rather in the decision to discriminate – to seek the better. As discrimination – the quest for perfection – is a human contrivance, so humans will have to seek it on their own. This is God’s judgement – nothing more, nothing less.

    The story is, of course, grand metaphor, and was understood as such. What its authors/editors failed to understand – and what many of us fail to understand today – is that the act of discrimination, troublesome as it often is, has been vital to the survival of our species.

  13. robindatta says:

    The “me” to which it “seems” is what is referred to in the quoted passage.

  14. p01 says:

    Does the Neo Pharaoh come as a surprise to many? It should not.
    Even the 7 billion pound sacred-cow gorilla of overpopulation can be brought up for public hanging, drawn, quartering and display into The Culture, for as long as an Apocalyptic cleansing of 7 billions leaves some noble souls alive to replant the frigging grass seeds and build the pyramids “the right way” this time.
    Civilization and agriculture are never doubted.

    • Collapse Watch says:

      That wouldn’t be a proper cleansing then. It is a crucial point you make. What prevents the seeds from germinating again? An improper cleansing allows the whole damnable thing to start anew, because once a few seeds take hold, the whole thing snowballs. The arteries must remain smooth and healthy. In inflammation sets in and ultimately scarring from that inflammation, the plaque of Civilization takes hold and builds upon itself until it restricts all life-supporting sustenance.

      It’s why none of us here will never experience that promised land, but we can do our part in increasing the probability that some do. Part of that part is to refrain from advocating people sterilizing themselves. Procreation is a part of this, and there is nothing wrong with people voluntarily choosing to procreate in the face of this, especially with the aforementioned in mind.

      • p01 says:

        I’d never advocate for anything (especially population-related issues) except to reduce one’s chances of being a slave to the Neo (and current, garden variety) Pharaohs: getting out of debt and learning as many self-sufficient skills as possible. The path before us is set whether we like it or not, because, frankly, no one knows how to live outside civilization (except a select few) and even bringing the possibility of eating without grains evokes barbarians with fat dripping from their bearded chins in most people (this is considered most uncivilized for them). Bringing to the table that civilization is the problem is simply inconceivable.
        Most won’t even know what hit them, but it doesn’t help much to know what hits you, either. On the contrary.

        • seawriter88 says:

          Here’s a really good list of knowledge/skills that everyone should know but hardly anyone does. Too bad they’re not teaching this in school, but of course the schools are set up to train the population to obey the empire. http://underminers.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/a-rewilding-community-toolbox-v.pdf

          • Ivy Mike says:

            Good stuff. Great photos/art. And they understand Dunbar’s Number. Nice checklist of skills, save for a lack of dealing with fallout, which is “virtually inevitable.”

            But don’t think you’re going to change society doing it. Until culture destroys itself, if rewilding becomes too successful, then culture will kill you just like they did the wild people at Wounded Knee. Or at least run you through the just-us system until you’re wrung out.

            So keep your Kulture Masquerade on your face; I suggest my style here; you can order police around in the proper command voice and get invited to ride the doctors’ elevators at the hospital if you look like me. Yeah, I’ve done both; but you can’t do that in a hoodie. And you can find $1600 thrice worn Italian blazers from rich dead men’s estates on ebay for cheaper than a damned ugly Walmart hoodie too.

            • kulturcritic says:

              Gawd, Ivy Mike. Thanks!!! I never knew about all that shit – dressing for presentation to the public and successful outcomes. WOW!! Thanks, you’re the best man! LOL

              • Ivy Mike says:

                LOL! To hell with the corporate success. But walking around naked gets you really noticed, so you have to wear clothes in public venues. Usually people buy them, even voluntary simplicity types.

                And there are choices that have consequences. Kultured Masquerade attire is what anti-civilization drop-outs should be wearing, not cheap crap from Walmart that yells “arrest me, I’m poor.”

                • Walmart $10: Fruit of the Loom Men’s Zip-Front Hoodie
                • Ebay$14 BUY IT NOW: Used 42R Christian Dior Monsieur Parisian Blue Blazer

                Who’s more likely to have handcuffs slapped on for jaywalking? Who’s more likely to get better care at the ER after an auto accident?

                “Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and innocent as doves.” ~verse 32, chapter 6, The Jefferson Bible

          • kulturcritic says:

            I’ve got a few!! But cultivate bugs?? Sounds fishy to me/

    • kulturcritic says:

      p01 – that is a principal problem, Paul.

  15. Ivy Mike says:

    Anybody ever notice how the Purveyors of Perfection never managed to raise a family successfully?

    • Buddha (deadbeat who abandoned wife and son)
    • Jesus (the 33 year old virgin)
    • Ayn Rand (unproductive parasites)

  16. Disaffected says:

    104 responses as of Sunday night already! “H Christ almighty,” as me am want to say regularly (whoops, there goes perfection on at least 2 counts!).

    First of all, great post again Sandy. I think it’s fair to say that goes without saying these days. FUCK! How do you do it dude? Anyway…

    Perfection. Indeed! As I was reminded in substance abuse counseling, it’s perhaps the greatest enemy of any addict. And unfortunately, we’re ALL addicts to something, and most of us to many things. And it’s not as if the current capitalist market system (which is in itself meant to be a sort of addiction right from the start) doesn’t serve up addictions daily like just another diner daily special.

    Anyway. Another “perfect day” here in the land of eternal sunshine in sunny New Mexico USA. A bit warm at near 60′ for most of the afternoon at 7000’+ altitude for early December, but who’s complaining? Not me on this day for sure, although I’m not so sure that my future self 20 years hence (if he even exists) will agree. Ten hours plus of hiking over the local mesas and canyons over the last two days, albeit with the benefit of a first world income and access to first world clothing, shoe, and hydration technologies will do that for you.

    Conflicted can only describe my current state of mind. Here I stand at the top of somebody’s majestic mountaintop handiwork, having expended a ton of sweat and energy in the effort to find this place, and yes, I DO stop at the top to ponder all the wonders I’ve been given to see on this ONE DAY in history that I, a mere shit stain on the shorts of time, have been given to see it. And then in the next, it’s back to business as usual. How do I get down, how much time will it take, how much daylight will that leave me, and what do I have left to do before my “REAL LIFE” intrudes yet once again tonight before tomorrow. Icarus?

    Anyway. Maybe I’ll send you some pics and you can post ’em. The finger mesas up here are, if nothing else, a fascinating and beautiful real life illustration of the mechanics of volcanic flows. Or, as we say in the present day, simply magnifique!

  17. derekthered says:

    perfectly behaved, a perfect score, a model wife with perfect breasts, a perfect season, un perfecto! a perfect fit, a perfect gentleman, the perfect crime.

    • Ivy Mike says:

      Cool! I bet that’s where Leary got his term “plastic fantastic.”

      “The big cities are plastic fantastic…But there are still places where you can get away into nature.”
      ~Timothy Leary
      Chaos & Cyberculture
      scribd.com/doc/35954417/Timothy-Leary-Chaos-Cyber-Culture

      Any of my city slicker friends who get uppity with me about living in Mayberry, RFD get that quote in response. They haven’t a clue how to reply to a Country Boy Who Can Survive quoting Leary.

  18. derekthered says:

    it’s all in the movies.

    • Greg Knepp says:

      Great scene. I’m reminded of ‘The Singularity ‘. There’s some ‘God the Father’ stuff going on here too.

      • derekthered says:

        a belief system which sets one up to fail. a society demanding participation, where you cannot escape from control. even if you buy a bit of land, it’s not really yours, for the taxman cometh. a culture which promises all things to all people because it must, or lose all legitimacy. human culture has actually worked pretty well up to this point, at least in producing more people (leaving aside the blood, and guts, whippings, and homicide) but now teeters under the eight of it’s own contradictions; but still insists that we can attain the unattainable. i wonder if this was where Sandy was going with this post?

      • Ivy Mike says:

        Trust and Obey,
        For there’s no other way,
        To be happy in Colossus,
        But to
        Trust and Obey. ♫

        It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Forbin Project, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to Colossus. ~Romans 14:11, syncretized

  19. Pingback: Love That Dirty Water « Collapse Watch

  20. Collpase Watch says:

    Not to digress too far from the theme of this thread, a post related to one of the sidebar discussions is up at Collapse Watch. Here’s a link:

    Love That Dirty Water

    A snippet:

    It’s something that must be shared. It resonates. It’s validating. It’s beautiful, and it’s right.

    The site of a cabin is usually chosen as near as possible to a fine spring. No other advantages will ever make up for the lack of good water. There is a strong prejudice against pumps……cisterns are considered “dead water,” hardly fit to wash one’s face in. The mountaineer takes the same pride in his water supply as the rich man in his wine cellar, and is in this respect a connoisseur. None but the purest and coldest of freestone will satisfy him.

    ~ Emma Miles, The Spirit of the Mountains, 19-20

    It’s incredible, but not surprising, how far such standards have slipped, especially when you consider the title to this post as one of its double meanings refers to the polluted Charles River in Boston. Water in the form described in this post gave life force to those who understood and respected it, to include the Mountaineers and Indians. If the water wasn’t extracted and used directly from and at its “running” source, it was considered “dead”…….devoid of its life-giving force. But Civilization took it one step further. Not only was water denuded of its vitally sustaining force via reservoirs, treatment plants and plumbing, but it was poisoned and polluted thus making it not only “dead,” but “deadly.”

    • This is a perfect (OOPS!) example of just how perverted and inverted conventional values have become. What nature presents to us Earth-ball dwellers in abundance is the more valuable, while that which is scarce has little inherent value. Could this be an intelligent design? So, instead, “we” take what is valuable for granted (poisoning, polluting, perverting, ignoring…), and place enormous value on a “special” painting by a “special” person,” a Babe Ruth rookie card, a rare gem, and rarest of all, certainty, which we simply and deludedly imagine we possess.

    • Ivy Mike says:

      Good point! Before I bought the farm where I live, I visited all the surrounding neighbors and asked for a drink of water, so I knew what kind of water was likely from a well. It was a way of getting to know my neighbors too.

  21. david39910 says:

    Do you ever wonder if there is some higher power(s) up there who are like man do you believe how screwed up these people can get and damn it’s about to really hit the fan now – but hey it’s been fun for us and after all we’re going to show them real peace and their 6,000 year history is only a blip in our world – something like that?

  22. javacat says:

    Some thoughts on art & perfection, by a friend who is an artist: “One last thing, the allure of perfection in performance is to miss the mark… Perfection is not our nature as a species, but can only be recognized as such or the “sublime” by other eyes. Our task if we should have one is to work for completions.”

  23. javacat says:

    ? Not sure what you mean, for that wasn’t my intent. I simply liked how this person brought together two topics we’d been discussing. 😉

  24. javacat says:

    Perhaps i shouldn’t have shared another’s words. Meaning gets lost in translation. Let me think a bit, and I’ll see if I can set it clearer. ~JC

  25. javacat says:

    Sandy, can you add a ‘like’ button to your comments. Good fun happening here. 😉

  26. Ivy Mike says:

    Sandy, following is an outstanding article of the source of the perfection impulse:

    Machines are Perfectable, People are Not
    http://halsmith.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/machines-are-perfectable-people-are-not/

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