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Perfect

Perfection is a tricky thing. When used in moderation, it can drive us to do better and become better. When used poorly, it can cause us stress and create problems in our lives. I think that most of us understand that perfection is nearly impossible to achieve, and yet many of us spend our entire lives trying to get as close to perfect as possible. I think that’s understandable in a way. We’re taught very early on that perfection is an ideal, and that anything less means that we’re doing something wrong, that we’re mediocre, or that we’ll never be good enough. We’re taught to fear the alternative to perfection, and in some ways, we’re taught that being anything less than your best at all times means you’re a failure.

I also think that many people want to be as close to perfect as possible because we believe that when everything is perfect, we’ll be happier. Everything would be better, and everything would be smoother and easier. The problem with this lies in the fourth sentence in the paragraph above: perfection is impossible to achieve. Especially for long periods of time. We’re flawed beings doing our best to make things work. Imperfection is really an inherent trait of humanity whether we like it or not.

Within our larger society, it’s being shown that the need to be perfect is ruining a lot of lives. It can create unhealthy attitudes towards ourselves and towards others. But what about in our smaller communities? How does perfection play into how we interact with our fellow co-religionists?

I’ve found myself mulling on this a lot recently. There has been a lot of activity within the community as to how people think one should act vs. how people have been acting. There have been disagreements about what should be our standard protocol for behaviour, and in the grand scheme of things, I think it’s a reasonable conversation to have, especially considering how close action and ma’at feed into one another. Being a predominantly orthopraxic religion means that actions speak louder than beliefs, and in order to do our best to live in ma’at, we need to be reflective on what actions are best for ourselves and the community. However, in some instances, I have found myself thinking that people expect too much out of their fellows and peers and expect too little of themselves. It’s very easy to get caught up in what you feel others “should” be doing and too easy to forget that we all make mistakes. As my grandmother used to tell me: “When you point your finger at someone, remember that there are three fingers pointing back at yourself”.

In that spirit, I might be able to make the argument that ma’at and perfection can be seen as being one and the same in a lot of ways. Ma’at is the ideal state of being/acting/doing in Kemeticism. We all strive to behave and act in ma’at and to lace ma’at into everything that we do. However, I’m pretty sure most of us would agree that we fail sometimes. Some of us fail a lot of the time. It’s all part of that being human thing I mentioned above. Like perfection, ma’at can be a useful tool. It can help us strive to become more, to become better. It can be something that enriches and fulfills our life as we learn how to weave it into our daily experiences. However, also like perfection, ma’at can be turned into a bludgeoning tool made to control and belittle others. It can be used to hurt people and make them feel like they are inadequate or that they are failures. This is particularly true when the two are married, and you suddenly see people uttering the words “you are not acting in ma’at” (or alternatively “your actions embody isfet”), which might as well be the same as “you are not hitting the level of perfection that I expect of you, and therefore you are a failure”.

This sort of culture can be incredibly damaging on so many levels. It teaches people that they can never make mistakes within the community without having to bear the stigma of having messed up. It teaches people that if they ever step out of line, they can expect a mob of people to come out and berate them. It teaches us that we have to become an almost fake and unrealistic form of ourselves in order to make people feel comfortable (which reinforces about every form of “ism” you can shake a stick at). Having a bad day? Better not go on the internet lest you make a faux pas. Find out that you made an error in a statement that you made? Good luck moving beyond that because you’re never going to remove that foot from your mouth because we won’t let you.

It makes it so that no one can really have any room to breath because they’re too worried about screwing up. In those instances, our religion becomes less about learning and growing, and more about fitting into a mold that has been laid out for us.

Perfectionism also extends beyond behaviours. There are many who seem to believe that there is a certain level or bar to hit with practices, too. If you’re not offering a certain way, you’re missing that bar of perfection and therefore a failure. If you’re not being historically accurate enough, you’re missing the bar. If you’re making too many jokes, you’re missing the bar. Or dare I say it? Not practicing and/or living in ma’at.

When used poorly, perfectionism stalls people’s growth and desire to try new things in their practice. What could be a warm and loving experience becomes something that is stifling and nerve-wracking. A lot of people come to our religion already afraid they’re going to mess up. Why do we make it worse on people by adding even more unrealistic expectations upon them? Why do we expect everyone to act exactly how we think they should? Why is it that only our personal bars and measures for success ever seem to matter? Why is it that it seems like so many people don’t have the capacity to understand that we are all learning and doing at our own speeds and paces, and doing so in our own ways? There isn’t only one way to do something or to be. Why can’t we learn to give some of our co-religionists some room to fumble around?

Now, with all of this being said, I want to emphasize here that there is an opposite end of this spectrum, too.

I think it goes without saying that I believe that we still have to have some level of standard of decorum within our communities. Not having any rules at all leaves people open and vulnerable to being attacked, abused or manipulated. So please do not take this post to mean that we shouldn’t have any rules at all. Much like with the ma’at comparison made above, it’s about balance and striking a middle ground between the members of our community. It’s about having enough structure to ensure that our members stay safe and aren’t subjected to bigotry or marginalization, but being open enough to allow people to practice freely and safely while interacting with the community. And of course, there are certain rules that I personally feel should be more important than others (such as rules that protect members and people over rules that protect the religious structure or preferences in practice), although others may feel differently.

In the end, I think that we all need to try and remember that none of us is perfect, and it’s unrealistic to expect perfection. We’re all doing the best that we can to try and manage our lives with our religious practices, and everything that is involved with both. We all start somewhere, and we all have our biases to overcome and learn from. And in that spirit, we should all be doing some self-reflection on our own imperfections, not just fussing over the imperfections of others.

How does perfection play into your community experience? Do you find that the pressure for perfection makes interactions difficult? Do you find yourself focusing too much on the imperfections of yourself or of others?

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Posted by on June 1, 2016 in Boat Paddlers Arsenal, Kemeticism

 

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The Wave Rises

Last weekend was another therapy session. This time we were in the new office. It was nice to have a change in scenery.

We started the session off by discussing our new apartment. There are issues with the apartment that me and my SO have issue with, and she discussed with me how there is perfection in imperfection. Sometimes, we try so hard to create this pretty picture that is in our head, and in so doing, we end up making things even worse. Which I can understand. Luckily, my SO has gotten a bit more laid back about the state of the apt. Hopefully that will be resolved soon.

After discussing that, I brought up a topic that has been bothering me for a long time now. It’s some weird ‘ailment’ that I’ve had since I was probably a child, but I’ve learned to ignore it more or less. On 3-11, I went to a film screening relating to the Great East quake in Japan. It was a documentary not only showing footage during the tsunami, but also showed how Japan and the Japanese have dealt with the loss and destruction that was wrought. It was painfully sad to watch, yet inspiring in other ways. I knew before going that I might have an issue with it. That I might have an emotional breakdown in the middle of the theatre. However, I went anyways. I went for a friend, and I was kinda interested in seeing what the movie was about.

And in retrospect, I am glad I went, and I regret that I went. It was very bitter sweet, the whole thing. I am glad for what the movie gave me- which is perspective. It showed me how I should be grateful for more. How many of us are missing the point entirely. We are so caught up in all of these physical trappings… and for what? To watch these people’s lives completely torn apart by this huge wave… it really shifted how I view things. In the documentary, there was a guy who lost his life over his car. Instead of running up the mountainside with his friend (to escape the ever rising wave), he ran back to he new car- because it was new and expensive. And this guy watched his best friend die. Over a car. I think this really embodies what a lot of people I know are like. We are so caught up in our stuff, we miss the real meaning of being here.

So for that, I am glad I went.

However, the first 5 – 10 minutes of the movie is real footage that a group of Japanese captured from a hillside. You watch this water roll in. And roll in. And roll in some more. You think it’s going to stop, but it never does. You listen to these people screaming for their lost family members (because they know that their family members are now under that water somewhere). You watch these people running up the hill to try and get away, only to have them sucked up by the wave. It leaves a mark. It left such a mark on me, I can’t even think about it without getting upset.

And it is this that I wanted to talk to her about. For many many many years now, I’ve had an issue where I have these waves of overpowering emotions. Sometimes it will be triggered by a movie such as this, or it will be triggered by something as simple as a song on the radio (some of which are not sad songs, and other songs I don’t even know the words to, yet I have a reaction). Other times, I will have this wave while reading an article in the newspaper (and sometimes the articles aren’t sad, or it’s a happy spin on a sad story). People can tell me stories, and I get upset. And I mean really upset. And while I’m sure that everyone else in that theatre was sad to see that movie, I would be surprised if many of them shed tears over it nearly every day for the week following.

When I told her about this issue I have, she told me that I have extreme empathy (specifically, extreme empathy for pain and suffering). I have no clue if this is what I have. Most people I know with empathy react to people around them. They feel the emotions around them, or people they are close to… and I don’t know if that’s what I’ve got. It almost seems that anything with a strong emotional background or footprint makes me react. I wish it wouldn’t. It’s debilitating. She continued this by saying that everything is controlled by karma. The bad has to balance out the good. And that until I could really accept the balance, I would continue to have problems. Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about that. I can’t justify killing 15,000 people with a tsunami. I don’t care who they were in their past lives. I do believe that bad things happen. Sometimes they happen for good reasons (to cause good changes in the world) and sometimes they just happen without any reason at all. I also grasp that in order for life to continue, things have to ultimately die, or be destroyed. Art is all about destruction and creation. And in order to fuel my body, I must kill things (plant, animal or otherwise). So I understand this exchange, but I don’t know what part it plays in my emotional roller coaster. Nor what to do about it.

After we discussed that, we started the hypnosis. It was to help me calm down and to realize that I need to take a break and have me time from time to time. I honestly don’t remember a whole lot about it. I didn’t zonk out for this hypnosis, but I don’t remember a lot of imagery being associated with it. I remember the key part of the hypnosis was to breath. When things start to upset me, I need to breath. Which is easier said than done. Specifically, I need to breath and count to ten. Long breaths, so it’s more like counting to 30.

My other homework assignment was to look at my relationship. To see how we complete each other, how we play off of one another. How we push each other to grow, etc. I have a basis for this (I know there are a lot of ways in which my SO has caused me to grow and change for the better), but I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be looking at it from another angle, or something else. I imagine it’ll become clearer in time.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2012 in Astral, Crack, Hypnosis & Inner Work

 

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