Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The enemy of human

This line caught my eye in a blog I follow: “the “perfect” is the enemy of the good – it is the ENEMY of HUMAN” The point of the post, which I TOTALLY agree with, is that if you wait to share your writing, or other work, until it is perfect you will never get anywhere, so you have to find a reasonable standard of good enough for the purpose and except that.
    But the phrase quoted above resonated for me in a different way; it resonated with a conversation that has stuck in my mind from a dinner party. One of the guests was expressing his surprise when he had encountered the idea that actually seeing the face of God could be a deadly danger. I was surprised at his surprise. To me the intrinsic danger of the Almighty was a familiar bit of common knowledge as well as being straight forwardly logical.
    God is holy and righteous, the very essence of purity and truth. Humans are soo different from that. They aren’t just like oil to water, they are like metallic sodium to a limitless sea.

I guess some people’s intuition is that, since God is love, then being in contact with him couldn’t be harmful to us. Maybe they are anthropomorphizing God too much, thinking that He is  just like us but with neater toys.God is more like us then like anything else we have an experience of. But that reflects the limits of our experience and does not limit God.
But I also think there is also a misunderstanding of our state as humans at work here. The statements “I’m only human.” everybody makes mistakes.” and “Nobody is perfect.” are all well known and firmly established as truth. But have we really thought about what these really mean? and do we really believe it? Of course no human knows everything or able to do everything. But how much imperfection. I wouldn’t say that a cat’s inability to do long division was any bar to being a perfect example of a cat, nor would the the inability to fly faster than sound be a barrier to a hummingbird being a perfect hummingbird. So can those inabilities which are normal and even universal in our experience of humans prevent us from being perfect examples of what humans are supposed to be?
Maybe not our inability to break the sound barrier by flapping our arms, maybe not even the fact that we occasionally make a mistake when doing long division, those faults might be things that humans don’t need in order to be good humans. But what about being good itself? That seems to me to be a minimum precondition to being a good human. And we seem to have a much more intractable problem with being good then we do with long division.
This intractability is so uncomfortable that we modify our definition of good to get away from it. And when that doesn’t work we modify our definition of human, saying that the perfect human condition includes not being good. Then every once and awhile something comes along that reminds us how diametrically opposed to perfection the one type of humans we have ever encountered is. 
This huge gulf between us and perfection, this dreadful imbalance between us and what our own nature should be, might be depressing. But I find it a joy. It’s a relief to know that a wish for something better is not an insanity. There is a an alternative answer to “What are we?” that in much better. It is not only conceivable, it is correct, even if we haven’t experienced it yet. 

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