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Perfection isn't Some State of Affairs; It's a State of Mind

By John Penberthy

Take a few seconds to answer these two simple questions: Do you believe that God is perfect? Do you believe that God is omnipresent (everywhere)? If your answers to these two questions are "yes" then by definition, everything is perfect. Do you believe this?

Imagine the universe prior to the Earth's formation 4.5 billion years ago. It was a time before night and day, a time before life, a time simply of swirling mass and energy, a time of purity and perfection. It was a time when the order of creation gradually drew mass in upon itself, separating it from space to form innumerable swirling planes of light we call galaxies. Among the billions of nuclear furnace pinpoints in one nondescript galaxy (which we now call the Milky Way), was an insignificant star (which we now call the Sun). Orbiting the Sun were eight tiny spheres, one of which would eventually become known as Earth. Earth was a turbulent, violent place blanketed by hot, noxious gases and fraught with destruction caused by meteorites and volcanoes incapable of supporting life. Change was the order of the day. There was no one to judge this creation, destruction and change, good or bad... they simply were.

All Earth's elements were the ash of stars which had burned out prior to the formation of our sun (we are all of us literally made of stardust). For billions of years Earth orbited the Sun, while its lands, seas and atmosphere gradually coalesced into the forms we presently know. All that existed was the present, for there were no minds to conceive of a past or a future. Time had not yet been invented. It was truly a state of perfection.

When conditions were right, plant life arose on Earth; very simple at first, but increasingly complex over time. A significant step was the evolution of photosynthesis - the ability of plants to convert sunlight into food. Combined with the miracle of procreation, it enabled plants to cover the Earth. For eons, plants lived and died, creating soil for their further development, but also severely polluting the environment with a foreign element not previously found there - oxygen. Still all was perfect.

And then arose animal life, eating plants and breathing the oxygen they respired. More destruction, creation and change. Higher and higher forms of animal life evolved, in which some animals fed off of others, adding new links in what we now call the food chain. Pain, fear and death became integral parts of life, for animals could not live and evolve without them. There was no judgment about these aspects of life; they simply were. It was appropriate for lions to feed on gazelles - there was no other way they could exist. As always the universe was perfect and well-ordered, ever-changing and evolving.

Then came man, and self-awareness. And suddenly, according to modern man, the universe, or at least human life on Earth, is imperfect. The thinking goes like this: If our existence was perfect, there would be no pain, fear or death, and we wouldn't have all this poverty, hunger and conflict, and everyone would be happy all the time. Man is the first imperfect creature to exist in the universe. In the vast perfect expansiveness of the entire universe, there is this one tiny pinpoint of imperfection. God made a mistake. Because he has given us free will, God no longer has a hand in what goes on here. He has abdicated Earth to us and we're screwing it up.

But wait a minute. Can anything be beyond the purview of God? Can it really be that for the first time in the history of the universe God made a mistake? Is such a thing possible? And why are pain, fear and death necessary and perfect for lower animals but not for us? Could it be that perhaps we have an anthropocentric (man-centered) perspective on this issue? Could it be, even though man intellectually knows that Earth (man) is not the center of the universe, that it remains so in the deepest recesses of our psyche?

The imperfections we perceive are calling us to expand our perspective; to align our subjective truths with objective Truth. Perhaps the unpleasant aspects of life don't negate the possibility of perfection. They didn't in the remote past; why should they now just because they apply to us? They have been a necessary catalyst in our evolution. One thing is certain—we wouldn't be here now without them.

If unpleasantness can exist within the definition of perfection, then we are compelled to take a deeper look at the true meaning of perfection. Maybe it isn't that blissful, rosy state of affairs that we have all fantasized about. Maybe it's simply the way things are, however comfortable or uncomfortable they may seem to us. Would God have it any other way? Apparently not.

Because of our anthropocentric perspective we have failed to realize that our definition of perfection is a subjective one and it seldom has anything to do with objective perfection- the Way things are. Given that the Way proceeds with or without our approval, perhaps there is something to be gained from aligning our mental models with the Objective, to understand that it's perfect that we think that life is imperfect.

The key to experiencing perfection cannot be found in altering the outer state of affairs. For one thing, it would be impossible to get everyone in the world to agree on an ideal state, even if it was possible to attain it. For example, some people might want bliss, but others might feel unending bliss is too boring and prefer drama. It is no coincidence that this sounds uncannily like what exists on our planet now. Perfection isn't some state of affairs, it's a state of mind.

But it's not a state of understanding; it's a state of knowing. And that's the difference that keeps most of us in bondage. For the person who knows in the deepest recesses of his psyche that all is perfect detaches from the outcome of his attempts to control his outer world and continually accepts "what is" moment by moment. He realizes the futility of attachment. He knows that the struggle is not with his boss, his car, his neighbor, his body, the terrorists, his wife or his children, but is entirely within his own mind.

To some this looks like simply giving up; tossing in the towel. Yet it does not imply that we abort our efforts to improve our lives or our world. It only suggests that we balance these efforts with the knowledge that our existence is perfect just the way it is, just as are our efforts to improve it to our liking. Ultimately, we can't make a mistake; the pressure is off.

So relax!

John Penberthy is the author of the spiritual allegory now in 11 languages "To Bee or Not to Bee" (Sterling Publishing). Available in bookstores, including Barnes & Noble, throughout North America. An endearing gift!
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