Friday, February 24, 2012
Perfection: Is it all in the appearance?
This morning I had a discussion with myself about the meaning of perfection. For some, perfection might mean the appearance of perfection (i.e. the appearance of a clean and orderly home or the appearance of physical perfection in hair, face, body, etc.) In that sense, perfection is merely an outward appearance and pretty meaningless. Outward appearances, for me, are only a small indication, and sometimes not even a true indication, of something deeper inside.
Some, including Aristotle, believe that perfection is the result of a process of acquiring the virtues. He says in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics that if we are to obtain the greatest happiness in life we must always be-at-work on our soul in accordance with virtue. As we do, we hone the Divine talents for which God endowed us.
Noah Webster defines moral perfection as "the complete possession of all moral excellence, as in the Supreme Being; or the possession of such moral qualities and virtues as a thing is capable of." We may be far from possessing all moral excellence, but we have the great capacity to begin the journey to obtain it. We see the signs along the way that guide, we are helped and lifted by one another in our circles and most importantly, we partake of the Sacrament each Sunday to renew our commitments and covenants with our Creator, who is the author of all moral perfection.
We must not delay, however, in embarking on the journey to perfection. The adversary lurks at every turn to lure us onto an enticing path of ease, quite different from Aristotle's "being-at-work on the soul in accordance with virtue." Marcus Tullius Cicero (c. 106-43 B.C), describes natural law as a moral law and says, "All nations at all times will be bound by this one eternal and unchangeable law (Natural Law), and the god will be the one common master and general of all people. He is the author, expounder, and mover of this law; and the person who does not obey it will be in exile from himself." Cicero strongly believed that if we did not delay in obtaining possession of God's Law, which includes the perfection of self, that we would undoubtedly be "summoned to duty by its orders [and deterred] from crime by its prohibitions."
Once we are on the path to obtain the virtues we begin to do things well and beautifully and only then does true perfection begin its miraculous course upon our lives. Appearance is a nice side-effect that happens naturally because of the process of perfection, but it is not perfection itself.