Saturday, May 22, 2010

No Such Thing As Perfect.

I live in gray areas.  There are very few things about which there is any absolute.  I know this totally confuses some of the people with whom I interface, especially when it comes to political, religious, or philosophical matters.  Thing is, it also applies to the more mundane. I don't manage with absolutes.  I don't work towards absolute goals.  I like to think I'm not all that unique in that.

I suppose there's a bit of a dishonesty in here.  I say, and truly believe, that I don't work towards absolute goals.  And maybe that's true.  But I do have in my head, frequently, an ideal, an image of perfection, an absolute.  I know for myself, and maybe this is where all my neurosis come from, that I constantly compare the present to the ideal image of absolute perfection.

I consider something that I just saw on TV where Prof. Stephen Hawking asserted that there is no such thing as perfect.  The topic at hand was the distribution of matter after the Big Bang and that because the distribution was uneven, imperfect, gravity was able to pull things together.

The example was fascinating and I would love to try it some time.  Ball bearings were spaced evenly on the flat surface of the dining hall.  Five were removed, and the rest started to clump together.  I would love to see that happen.

So, it's built in to the Universe that there is no such thing as Perfection.  Maybe that's why I get so upset at my own efforts to achieve some sort of goal.  There's always something more.  There's always something else that needs to be fixed, refined, adapted.  Complicating that is the fact that all the environment is a moving target.  All influences come and go, change their shape, change their impact.  Always.

I get very nervous around people who believe in absolutes.  The first thing is that it gives me a clue as to their nature that they do not appear to have the curiosity or awareness to perceive the changing nature of reality around them. 

I understand that it is in our nature to look for absolutes.  We are pattern-seeking animals, and that has been proved in many ways.  Those of us who could recognize danger faster and with less concrete information than the others survived to pass along our genes.  The others are fertilizer.

So, it's built in to us to look for the short cuts.  I've discussed before how those short cuts can prevent you from seeing the larger picture.  But I'm also thinking today about how those kinds of short cuts lead to belief in, reliance on, adherence to absolutes.

I get exceptionally frustrated when I'm trying to evaluate a philosophical item but can't get the discussion beyond, "Someone else said its true, therefore that's what I believe".  I'll be more specific: That's what The Bible says.  OK, belief is a good thing.  Faith is a good thing.  I know there are Atheists out there who think that all faith is a delusion and a moral failure of some sort.  I disagree with them as strongly as I do any other fundamentalist.  Saying that is just as intellectually dishonest as any other absolute.  Admit that this is what you believe, and make your case, but there is no categorical proof that can be empirically tested.  It's all conjecture.  If you want to convince me, make your case.  Threatening me with Hell, or threatening me with intellectual inferiority are not going to work.  Convince me.

I got into a snit about a conservative writer who called Muslims less-than-human and Mohamed a monkey-god.  The point I want to make is that you can believe all you want, but as soon as you start calling your fellow humans less-than-human, then we're getting into some morally dangerous territory.  By way of example, the Jews in Europe were cast as "less than human" and as such a weak society allowed for mass murder.  All arguments ever made in support of slavery have included a case that the slave population was "less than human".  This is one of the places where I come close to an absolute.

Believe all you want.  That's the point of belief.  Once you start to act on those beliefs, then the rest of society gets to evaluate your actions and judge you on your beliefs.  I think I've said that before.  Perhaps a lot.  It is categorically unacceptable to denigrate another person, another population, and cast them as "less than human" for any reason whatsoever.

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