Walking down Fifth Avenue past the shop windows, each more exquisite than the last, impulsively you turn to pass through the portal of a store. Not just a store. Not simply a shop. A temple. A place of glory. You feel a reflection of its power, “All this…, for me?”
It’s hard not to think so. Hard not to fall for this deception. For deception it is.
Every consumer interaction is built on this model. Even now that most consumer experiences have devolved into a sado-masochistic inversion in which we are meant to feel the utter contempt of those who want to compel us to pay for what they deign to offer. They all begin with this premise of perfection, delivered for a price.
It’s easy to fake. When we seek perfection we’ve paradoxically already surrendered our sense of discretion. Understanding that we expect a fantasy, those who cater to our folly know that we’ll only complain if they try to disabuse us of our desire.
Have you ever wondered why, even as fuel economy has become more and more important, there is not a single automobile sold in the United States that is not sold on its “high performance?” Euro-style small cars are sold, but every one of them has a larger and more powerful engine than those sold elsewhere. Marketer’s know that their first allegiance must be to the American Dream and that it is fed by maintaining the fantasy that our desire for more power is non-negotiable. This fantasy cannot be shaken. What if we discovered that there are more important things than flooring it!
No higher CAFE Standards, no imposed rules of any sort, will break this bargain between exploiters and their willing victims. The same is true throughout consumerism. We can drill-down through this crust and see that it’s true right down to the crumbling bedrock of what we call civilization. In all cases a bargain has been made between those who insist on separation and the delusional beliefs that support it, and those who gain power by exploiting them.
A key to getting beyond this impasse might be found in disentangling Quality from our notions of perfection.
Perfection is a reflection of a desire for purity. We consider something as pure, perfect, when it presents an unassailable illusion of its isolation from everything else. It appears to prove that idealization is real. It removes the perfect object, and by association its makers and owners, from the actual, establishing a link to a wished for ideal plane, “Above it all.” It appears to resolve the pain brought on by separation by proving that we can escape suffering. The perfect object whispers to us, “There is a way out of this world.”
This conflation of Quality with perfection seems plausible until we actually make contact with Quality.
This seems like it should be easy enough. We’re surrounded by Quality. It is to be found in any fragment of un-denatured experience. Except that we have this weight, this pressure of conditioning, all the force of civilization and its habits of thought, working to keep us from seeing it. We are so deeply, so thoroughly conditioned that it is a radical, reaching-to-the-root, action to confront Quality and come into relation with it.
This is where practices enter in. Anyone who has gone beyond a superficial contact with a practice-of-making has been exposed to Quality. Even if only as a glimpse, something quickly abandoned on the way to making a success by figuring out how to fake it, turn it into perfection, providing a fine spice to sprinkle on the lie.
Even so; and it could well-be that this is an essential step in every journey towards Quality; we do at that moment of self-corruption discover shame. We feel a discreet addition to our load of suffering when we turn our backs on Quality discovered. This may be the only path away from such powerful delusions. At some point, and through some working of Grace, we begin to understand that Quality offers us something the lie of perfection never can. We glimpse a path that can take us into connection, relation, creativity, and communion.
We discover how pernicious the lie of perfection is. Once seen for what it is, as with any conditioning seen through, its power over us dissolves. What had been a temptation is now a signpost signaling dangerous ground.
Let’s be clear. Quality is not “The Good.” Not something better than anything else. These are abstractions, ways to return us to the lie of separation and prop up our delusions. Quality is… well, to define it is to limit it, to attempt to remove it from its context…. Quality can be seen as a reflection of our perception; we see what is whole while, at the same time, we see that it is particular, a singular flowering of this moment in which we find ourselves. Quality is the aroma of the tangible. A sensation letting us know that we are attending to this moment and not lost in fantasies of division.
When we perceive Quality we’re not deterred or disappointed when we find that it lacks some abstract perfection. We take what we discover in the particularity of this moment as inseparable from its Quality.
If-not-for-the-worm… we might just be chasing a chimera, a projection of perfection brought on out of conditioned willfulness.
Seeing a moment whole, warts-and-all…, signals to us that we are attending more than a projection. Taking this wider view as cause for celebration of our connection to Quality, we leave our will-to-divide behind. At least for this moment…
and there is no greater gift.