Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Deliver Us From Perfection and Earthworms.

Ask anyone to define perfection and more than likely, everyone you ask will give you a slightly different answer. One person’s concept of "utopia" could be another person’s idea of "Hell". Human beings, imperfect by default, have vastly different concepts of what perfection is; therefore how can this word even exist? How could something – the definition or concept of perfect - come from something so imperfect, us; not to mention, does not perfection require a universal definition in order to be?

Seeking perfection is either going to be extremely frustrating at best, or lead us to hallucinations that we have discovered the definition of perfection, and possibly even achieved this pure state of existence. History has repeatedly proved this true.

According to Diane Ackerman, author of the new book, "The Zookeeper's Wife", Nazis punished a high-ranking Nazi zookeeper for not anesthetizing an earthworm enough during an operation. The idea of Nazis feeling compassion for an earthworm seems preposterous, given Dr. Josef Mengele's notorious experiments on human beings without any anesthesia whatsoever. However, when viewed through the lens of "Nazi perfection", it almost makes sense.

The Nazis were trying to recreate the world based on what they considered perfect, which consisted of certain types of “Aryan” organisms; plants and animals included. In order to maintain this “perfect” world, they would have to destroy any form of life that did not conform absolutely to the description or definition of their ideal. After all, perfect means pure or completely free of defect, therefore allowing imperfections would contaminate perfection and contaminated perfection is an oxymoron.

In the Nazi world, "perfect" earthworms had far more value than an "imperfect" human being. As reprehensible as this sounds, taken in proper context, their strange concern for the earthworm having to endure pain and the Nazi's complete lack of concern for the extreme pain they imposed on human beings makes more sense. Value, in this kind of world, is assigned by its degree of conformity with the perceptual experience of the "Nazi".

Obviously, the Nazi anecdote is an extreme example of what can happen when people believe a state of "perfection" is attainable. If we look hard enough, we can see how pernicious this quest can be in our individual lives on a much smaller scale. Luckily, most are convinced perfection exists, are not compelling enough to influence on a large scale. Our Constitution provides the checks and balances necessary to prevent anything on the scale of Nazi Germany to happen here...so far, that is.

An atmosphere of "perfection" is a destructive force in and of itself. By definition, a process of eliminating anything or anyone who does not conform absolutely must exist. In addition, people who might otherwise reflect on their own behavior or shortcomings may not, in fear of finding out they do not live up to the ideal, arbitrarily created by imperfect human beings, who just happen to be persuasive or influential enough to be dangerous...people like Jim Jones, Adolph Hitler, Charles Manson, David Koresh, all of whom thought they had achieved perfection.

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