Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Perfection in the Context of Group Living

Perfection, the idea that we are all right, beings, has been on my mind lately. It is the cornerstone of the Morehouse philosophy. There is a private course anyone can take in which teachers from Lafayette Morehouse argue for your perfection while you spew all the reasons you have stashed in your head about why you are not perfect all the time, or before . . . or back when . . . or if . . . . It’s called a Presentation. I’ve had this course. I proudly wear the pendant you get when you complete the course around my neck.

Lately what I have been contemplating is other people’s perfection. As House mother, I have a great excuse to hold the most loving view point in the house. To me this means remembering that everyone in the house is perfect and right the way that they are, including me. If someone in our house does something offensive, like not keeping their agreements they’ve made with their housemates, the knee-jerk response would be to think that person is wrong and bad person for not considering the impact of their actions on their fellow housemates. There are other alternatives.

It seems an important element of the concept of perfection is that we are not our actions. Perfect people do and say things that are not in agreement with their stated goals or earlier agreements. I have observed that everyone I live with is basically employing their best strategy for navigating any given situation in any given moment. They are doing or saying what has worked for them in the past. If the strategy didn’t work for them on some level, they wouldn’t use it. If I find their strategy offensive, hurtful, or silly; it doesn’t mean something is wrong with them. They are perfectly reasonable people doing what seems to them to be their best move at the time.

If I have them has being a right person, I have more options for responses available to me. For instance, I could get curious. Why would my friend choose that behavior which appears to be in opposition to their stated goal of wanting to be closer to the people in the house? Maybe I could have a sense of humor about it and tease them, “You little rebel you.” I could also consider their behavior a cry for help.

Moreover, these other responses take me off the hook of being angry or upset. These are emotional responses that I have chosen to a set of actions. I could choose an emotional response that feels good to me. In some circumstances, it’s really hard to choose a response other than the one that is familiar to me. I go unconscious and find myself heading down a road in which dark clouds are forming and my friend is an asshole. In those cases, I have found it helpful to start with finding myself right, the situation is perfect because I created it. From there, I can create it differently, maybe choose another response based on the fact that I and my friend are perfect and right. Perfection includes the potential for change. Perhaps we can conspire and find a more pleasurable direction to go.

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