Humanities Information

Progress Versus Perfection

From the creative explosion marking the outset of the universe to our advanced human stage in evolution, some fifteen billion years have elapsed. This advanced stage refers to the natural abilities and the cultural realizations of our species. While these natural abilities have virtually not changed in the last hundred thousand years, these cultural realizations have progressed exponentially over the same period. The former depend on a biological memory - the genetic information that is stored in human cells and can be transmitted through reproduction. The latter depend on a social memory - the didactic information that is stored in human libraries and can be transmitted through education. Together these two memories and modes of transmission supply the necessary tools to perpetuate and ameliorate humanity. The problem is that humans rarely use these tools to the maximum. They reproduce very well; more than five billion people testify to that; but they could do better in every other respect, witness the many instances of weakness and wickedness that tarnish their image.

Having said this, their existence can never be perfect. The worthiness and especially the effectiveness of their efforts will always be limited and perfectible. Such is their human condition. They can achieve great things, thank God! Yet this greatness cannot be absolute, thank God again! This imperfection hides a sublime advantage that can only be fathomed and cherished by a life lover. It ensures the maintenance of a dynamic state in pursuit of fulfillment, which is essential for the act, the dignity, and the joy of living.

Conversely, the attainment of infinite health, strength, pleasure, wisdom, glory, wealth, and every other object of one's desires would amount to an infinite satisfaction that would kill these desires. This attainment is impossible because it is incompatible with life. Perfection and death go together like two inseparable lovers in a single tomb. They send a shiver down my spine. Who can look on death as the ideal of life? Perfection is fit for a stone. It may appeal to a wretchedly tired soul in dire need of a rest. Dead, however, would this soul not adopt the opposite stance after a lengthy bout of mineral tranquility? Would it not dream of having a second chance to live and love life?

Many may think the human condition could be better without being perfect. What is the meaning of this betterment, which bears no relation to the one that ought to be accomplished by human means within the limits of this condition? Do many wish God would increase these means or reduce these limits? For what purpose? To make life easier? Closer to death! Can they not see the beauty of the imperfection as it is? Can they not appreciate that the peak of human fulfillment entails a steep mountain to climb and the constant risk of falling?

Admittedly, it is hard not to lament one's challenging human condition while painfully struggling to rise to the challenge, especially if the difficulties are serious and numerous. Correlatively, it is hard then not to reckon that there is room for improvement in the creation. I for one have long indulged in this sort of lamenting and reckoning. With hindsight, I am now in a good position to size up my error. God was not to blame for my unhappiness at the time; my attitude was at fault. I had failed to realize that the extreme difficulties I was faced with were exceptional opportunities for spiritual development and enlightenment, just as an obstacle can keep ivy in the dark and become the instrument of its ascension to a superior place in the sun.

Laurent Grenier's writing career spans over twenty years. During this time he has broadened and deepened his worldview, by dint of much reflection and study, and in the end has crafted "A Reason for Living," his best work to date.

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