Do I want my life to be perfect? I don’t think so, but I don’t want to live with problems that I could be solving, either. The goal is to winnow down the things that aren’t especially necessary, and if I find myself living in a house again, not to accrue more stuff just because people are giving it to you, or you are able to buy it.
The process of collecting junk doesn’t end with the material world, though. I am incredibly adept at getting interested in a random subject for a few weeks with such a zeal that I want to read all of the most highly rated books on the topic, and then I drop it, and am left with books I don’t especially feel like reading. But, I might be interested in them again, someday.
However, it goes beyond just books on shelves or random notes on hard drives. The brain becomes a cloudy, messy place where any sense of real direction and purpose is lost.
The way forward, I think, is to look at what things have consistently kept my attention and sustained efforts throughout my adult life. I no longer feel guilty about hammering something like this out, or starting a writing project that never gets finished. I like the purity of the process of writing–really, it’s a matter of having a tactile experience connected with visual/symbolic representations of my thoughts that flow in a linear way instead of the general mess of non-linear chaos that is my unfocused mind. I am forming something concrete and yet it is mostly ephemeral as well–it won’t be stored for the ages, or even recalled by me in my lifetime. Yet, the concreteness of the words that appear has a certain quality of firmness that lends it more meaning than simply wandering around the house muttering to myself would.
So, then–what things are the things I will carry on with me until I die?
I am not going to ever become the perfect man as I imagine the perfect man should be. If I take away some of my imperfections, I inevitably raise the volume on some of the others. The perfect man is no longer caught up in sex of any kind, he is a vegan, he is well-versed in many areas of knowledge, never becomes too spiritual or too materialistic. He helps others at all times. He is a hippie kind of guy minus the drugs who practices some of the best traits of Gandhi, Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day. The perfect man has no interest in his own advancement or acclaim. Nobody will remember him, because his acts are many small ones, rather than the great movments.
The perfect man doesn’t need to write because he is perfectly aligned with his words, deeds and God. He doesn’t need to collect anything, inside his brain or his home, because he takes with him the knowledge he needs and leaves the rest behind. He doesn’t become overly involved with anything, except helping others.
I won’t ever be the perfect man because I have appetites for things. I do like the occasional drink or two or three. I like reading books and writing. I am caught up in the culture of my time to the degree that I still halfway pay attention to it. But, I will strive to be the perfect man, more and more with each passing year. If old age finds me without a spouse and my children and grandkids are all able to take care of themselves, I will certainly consider the monastery if they will have me, but until then, I do have to walk the tightrope between the materialistic demands of my throwaway culture and the spiritual yearning that comes back around every single month.
I won’t ever be the perfect man because I don’t think Jesus wants to work with me if I am perfect, and perfectly so due to my own efforts. What room do I have for God if I’ve made myself into a little god here on this earth?