What would our lives be like if everything went perfectly?
Let’s say we get everything that we’ve ever wanted in life: love, success, admiration, influence, or whatever our wildest dreams consist of. What would the result would be?
I’m sure we would all like to imagine that we would be happy for the rest of our lives and nothing could possibly go wrong, but unfortunately that is not how human nature works. I figure it would be more along the lines of what happens to many lottery winners: they spend all of their money in a frenzy of hedonistic crusades and return to destitution.
From my amateurish psychological perspective, I believe that (on some level) these people don’t feel as though they deserve their newfound wealth, and that plays out in their squandering of it. I also believe the same would happen to us if any of our dreams magically came true without our having to work for them. We would somehow find a way to sabotage it.
The reason is that imperfection is built into the human experience.
If we got everything we wanted, we would find a way to screw it up. If perfection was somehow attained in life, it either wouldn’t last long, or it would lead to complete and utter disaster.
Imperfection is embedded in the human condition, and this has to do with the fact that we learn through our struggle. It is only in striving for something—clawing with our fingernails for what we desire—that we find pleasure in our achievements. If we got what we wanted without having to struggle for it, it would all feel so cheap and meaningless.
When we climb to the top of the mountain, we can finally rest, if only for a moment until the clouds clear up and we see the next summit come into view. Then we keep going.
We don’t really want our lives to be perfect, but we also don’t want them to be completely overtaken by chaos and imperfection. This is why Daoism is the closest thing to a religion for me. This notion that all of life is made up of myriad opposites: life and death, up and down, black and white, perfection and imperfection, joy and suffering, so on and so forth.
We can’t identify anything in this world without its opposite, and therefore we ought not cling to one end of the spectrum and run away from the other. Instead, we must endlessly attempt to walk that fine line between opposites and cultivate the ability to transition from one to the other with effortlessness.
This is what it means to live a balanced life—to live in Dao.
If we accept that imperfection is a natural part of life, suffering becomes much less difficult to contend with. Here, we can begin to cultivate a sense of balance within ourselves, one that makes us more capable of moving through life with grace and effectiveness.
The trials and tribulations of life come to be met with an inner readiness, a sense of confidence that comes from the acceptance of that which is beyond our control. The challenges of life will be whatever they are going to be, and our only responsibility is to be the best that we can be—in and of ourselves—so that we might meet these challenges with composure and poise.
This is the most that could be asked of us.
Author: Samuel Kronen
Image: Jeremy Bishop/Unsplash
Editor: Danielle Beutell
Copy Editor: Travis May
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis