Perfection is in the Eye of the Perceiver
It’s said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder – subjective. Yet so many, both men and women, are in pursuit of perfect beauty, the ultimate standard above which nothing more beautiful exists. Consider this:
Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus Carota), also known as wild carrot, is an herbaceous plant native to Europe but also found in North America and Australia. It flowers beginning in its second year of growth from spring to early fall. Its common name comes from the legend of Queen Anne of England (1665-1714), who, while sewing lace pricked her finger and had a drop of blood fall onto it. Early Europeans cultivated Queen Anne’s lace and the Romans ate it as a vegetable. American colonists boiled the taproots for consumption and sometimes added it to wine. The Irish, Hindus, and Jews also used it to sweeten puddings and other foods.
Growing up in the Appalachian foothills of southeastern Ohio, I remember Queen Anne’s Lace filling fields as far as the eye could see. Sitting atop a stalk about two feet in height is its flat white bloom and small dark red center indeed resembling a drop of blood on lace. I knew it then as an invasive and noxious weed – that was until I moved to the deep south and into the heart of Dixie. Here, to my continued astonishment, people consider it a delightful meadow wildflower that grows gracefully and sways gently. I did say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Ligaya Mishan wrote in the August 28, 2018 edition of the New York Times that “A weed is unwanted: That is its definition. It is a plant that we have deemed to have no value because it contributes nothing to our life, neither nourishment nor beauty. Why should it help us when it doesn’t need us to survive, its seeds borne on the idlest gust, taking root and thriving in even the cruelest terrain? It stands wholly apart from human civilization, hardy and self-sustaining, mocking our hegemony, claiming the earth as its own. Worse, it is a predator, stealing resources — real estate, sunlight — from the plants we do value and rely on, crowding them out, threatening their existence and, by extension, ours.”
Yet Emily Thompson, a floral and organic designer in New York City, has gained national acclaim for her use of rare, ill-used, and unlikely flowers, seed pods, branches and undergrowth (“weeds”) to “achieve design that creates desire for the obscure and love for the hard-to-love”. She “collaborates with the rough hand of nature, drawing the eye to the infinite glory of the living world with piercing contrasts and juxtapositions of materials. All this, to reveal and animate the essential natures of our living media through design.” Some call her work perfection. The rose, itself a symbol for perfect beauty, becomes the “weed”, and its inclusion in the bouquet would destroy it.
CS Joseph recently did a YouTube live stream entitled “Confessions of an ENTP: Wearing the Mask – Lying a virtue?” (Confessions of an ENTP | Wearing the Mask | Lying a virtue? | CS Joseph) In it, he discussed how lying is for him and other ENTPs a sometimes necessary, albeit undesirable, means to social acceptance. He reasoned that if any personal vice, lying or “sin” being examples, is self-protective in nature, could it not also be considered a virtue. In other words, perhaps there are redeeming qualities and purpose, even beauty, in the weeds of our personal morality.
The 16 personality types are naturally occurring. They are the landscape of cognition, each with unique characteristics, but all with the capacity to grow and flourish. They can do so wildly or with mindful cultivation. Through proper nurture, they can “fulfill the measure of their creation”. The question is whether that “fulfilling” requires the eradication of all that is undesirable, or simply its proper and wise use in specific situations. If the latter is the case, then how do we define perfection?
I was baptized into the LDS Church when I was 19. As a youth I was always of a spiritual mind and had at one point decided to make the ministry my career. My baptism was truly a life-changing event. I recall the immediate happiness I felt knowing that I was finally on the right track with God. Following the service, I got in my car and turned on the radio only to hear the song “Do Right” by Paul Davis playing. It was a revelation from God himself that he accepted me!
“I know that he
gave his life for me,
set all our spirits free.
So, I wanna do right.
Wanna do right
all of my life.”
There was a problem, though. Over time, I increasingly equated my personal worthiness with eligibility for God’s love. Couple this with my Fi Critic, and perfection in morality became the goal because faith without works is dead, right? I fell short time and time again, yet continued with ever more fasting, prayer, church attendance, doing my duty, etc., all to no avail. I desperately wanted to be worthy of His love and sacrifice, but my inability to achieve what I believe to be the moral standard required put me into a downward spiral of depression, hopelessness, and worse.
The Critic attitude, regardless of which cognitive function occupies it, is the source of our need for perfection. It is also where our hypocrisy exists. Perfection, though, because it is subjective is unattainable. It is a harmful construct, and in fact, evil. And who ever told us that we were imperfect to begin with? These weaknesses and personal vices that CS Joseph referred to were deliberately given to us by Him who created us. Who are we then to try to eradicate them? In fact, the Critic attitude is also our source of humility. “…I give unto men weakness that they may be humble…” (Ether 12:27, Book of Mormon).
Continuous improvement, personal growth and development, maturity, wisdom, and the integration of the 4 sides of our mind are all worthwhile goals. Having vices, weaknesses, and “sin” simply means that we remain on a journey of opportunity, possibility, and hope. They are evidence that we remain vulnerable, innocent, and yet have the capacity for humility. Humility allows for forgiveness of ourselves and for others. It provides motivation to rise in the face of failure and to move forward. In contrast, perfection is boring, arrogant, and confining. Don’t take it on yourself and don’t project it onto others. Instead, see the beauty of the garden of the mind, weeds and all. Cultivate it well and create your own landscape.