I talked about perfection being ugly a few articles ago, and carrying on from that thought, I've been thinking: What then do we aim for? Is it ok to have goals and a vision for your life? How do we distinguish the good from the perfect?
Have you seen any good movies this year?
I'm finding it hard to watch blockbuster movies. I saw Independence Day: Resurgence the other day, and I almost fell asleep. I felt like I was just waiting for the predictable plot to unfold, and even though the graphics and effects were great, I was hoping for a twist, a tug on the heart strings, a connection with a character, but I wasn't moved.
All the best elements of the first movie were there, but there were no surprises. It was a controlled beast and I felt like the chain holding the beast was never at risk of breaking. It was too perfect.
Even though I could say the same for the countless mind-numbing predictable dribble we pay way too much for at the theatre, this isn't a movie review, or a dig at the money making, I mean movie making industry.
People are genuinely finding they have an increasing appetite for raw, weird, arthouse films. Maybe I just have a lot of hipster friends, but film festivals are becoming more popular, as we're no longer inspired by CGI intergalactic battle scenes. I'm sure those big blockbusters will have their place, but instead of part two or three of another predictable big movie, my favourite movies this year have been low budget documentary and local films.
There's something in our nature that desires a good story, and not a perfect one.
If there is such a thing as human perfection, it seems to emerge precisely from how we handle the imperfection that is everywhere, especially in ourselves. When we try and dress it up and smooth over the edges, the audience will be impressed for a while, but it'll grow old.
Stories that ask a bigger question and make you feel something days and weeks later are stories worth sharing.
The demand for the perfect is the greatest enemy of true goodness
I went to a small fishing town called Moeraki in the South Island of New Zealand to a small restaurant which was oozing goodness. It was called Fleur's Place and it was a hidden gem.
I turned up to the little non-descript fisherman's shed overlooking the water. It's surrounded with loose gravel and odd hippie ornaments poking out from different nooks and crannies. A large stone whale looked to be a new item outside, sitting on a crate at an odd angle looking out to sea. Old buoys hang off the side of the shed like punching bags, and salt spray obscures the clarity of the window.
I entered the shed through a well-worn narrow door thinking, 'surely it's got to be nicer inside after driving all this way', and to my surprise I was greeted by the grey-haired smiling Fleur herself.
The place was quirky and crowded, and luckily we booked a table earlier. Not only was the food exceptional, the whole experience just screamed of substance. It wasn't perfect; in fact there was room for a lot of improvement as people had to wait outside in the cold for a table.
They could certainly invest in landscaping, and it was rather crammed in that you had to push past others cueing up to pay while making your way to the bathroom which wasn't sound proof, and far too close to some of the tables.
There are messages written in vivid like graffiti all over certain sections of the exposed recycled Rimu beams where guests had been encouraged to write personal messages to Fleur, saying things like, "Yum best seafood I've ever tasted—Baz and Jill 2013!"
It was authentic, unrefined, delicious, and it was so good.
Whether God took 13.8 billion years or six days to make us, he didn't stand back and say, 'nailed it, it's perfect!' As the Jewish tradition states, however, he does say: 'it's good!'
I believe God sees value and purpose in the messy and painful parts of life—our shadows. If you think about shadows as being those things inside of us we often try to avoid; the underbelly of our ego, our subconscious need to protect and defend ourselves.
I think our bigger teacher—our path to success at a soul level—comes with embracing our failures and the failures of others, rather than trying to erase them.
If you think about a shadow, you need elements of light and darkness; you can't have a shadow without a mix of both. We cannot see inside of total light or total darkness, and this is the space we've been given to work out our humanity.
So today, in the success-driven, perfection-obsessed culture that wants to overcome and dominate, that is terrified of failure; what would it look like to instead delight in humility, simplicity, our shadows, and powerlessness?
Maybe we'd be making far more profound, thought-provoking films? Maybe there'd be more places like Fleur's? Maybe we'd be ok with vulnerability and learning through mistakes? I don't think we'd be obsessed with piety and perfection—Jesus certainly wasn't interested in those who thought of themselves this way.
I think when you seek what Thomas Merton calls our 'true self', and find it; you'll be quite surprised how resilient and ok we all are with shame and failure. I think we might just begin to see the goodness in our weakness.
This seems to be a theme that keeps popping up everywhere I look. I saw it once, and now I can't un-see it. When you know you're grounded in a deeper truth, you see failure as a learning curve, you see it as a starting point. And it's all good.
Brad Mills enjoys the outdoors and almost any sport... For a day job he's a journalist who works at the Rhema Media in Auckland New Zealand.
Brad Mill's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/brad-mills.html