Sunday, February 05, 2006

Atelophobia & Integrity

In the days since breaking up with Bria, we've had a number of - fights? Arguments? Discussions? I'm not sure which word is appropriate. During the latest, she said something to me that made me stop and think a lot; not just about our failed relationship but about how I view the world in general. She was accusing me of being too demanding, of expecting too much (honesty, apparently, being "too much"), and in the course of this she accused me of always trying to be perfect, suggesting that this was somehow a shortcoming because nobody can be perfect, so working towards that is unrealistic and a character flaw.

Later, I thought back to this remark, this accusation that it was wrong to aim for perfection. Something really bothered me about it, and after some thought, I figured it out. I did this, as I have the habit of doing, by thinking about my family (the real one, not the one that shares my blood.) I thought to myself, "That is a statement that none of them would ever have said." - and then proceeded to think about WHY none of them would ever have said something like that, because then I might have my answer.

The simple answer is that none of them would have said it because they are good people.

I'm not sure how all of you would define good; but to me, being good is basically defined by that struggle, the struggle for perfection - not in some superficial sense, but in the sense that, when it comes down to it, you try to always act and make decisions in a way that is in alignment with what you truly believe to be the right thing to do. Yes, nobody is perfect, but the fact that nobody is perfect should not stop someone from trying to be good. This attitude like, "Oh, well, I'm going to screw up anyway, and so does everyone else, so I might as well lie/cheat/be a hypocrite/etc." is, perhaps, what is wrong with most of the world - and it was just this attitude that seemed so out of place in the world.

The average person, I believe, lacks integrity. When nobody's watching, when there wouldn't be any repercussions, when nobody would find out, I doubt that the average person would choose to do what is right at the expense of what is pleasurable/convenient/easy.

When I look at the people I have chosen to get close to, all the people who I consider my closest friends, that is one thing - perhaps the only thing - that they uniformly have in common. Integrity, that strange blend of being honest, trying your hardest to have your actions conform to what you profess to believe (for in the end, isn't hypocrisy another form of lying?), and having enough self-respect to do the right thing when nobody is watching.

It's something that all those I really love have, but it is something that is in short supply in the world.

So when she accused me of having standards that were too high, of holding her to an unrealistic ideal, at first I said to her, no, I'm not! All I want, all I ever wanted and "demanded", was honesty. All I ever demanded was to be with someone I could trust - to not lie to me, to be the same person when I wasn't watching that they were when I was, to act in the way the ideals they paid lipservice to would suggest they would act.

But after further reflection, I realized that she was right. My standards were high. My Anjuls, I think, have ruined it for me - broken my bell curve, as Aldo said. (That's what I get for hanging out with anarchists and activists, eh?)

Because the average person doesn't have much integrity - not in the true sense. When it comes down to it, most people would choose convenience over conscience. Most people wouldn't strive for perfection. Most people would accept that the world is in bad shape, people are in bad shape, so screw trying to be better or fix anything, let's just do what is easier.

And that's fine - for most people. But I don't let most people into my heart, my life, my bed. Integrity is a lot to ask of someone, in that it is somewhere above what the average person has.

Sadly, though, it's one of those things that I'm discovering I can't just do without in a partner.


Blogger Seth said...

That's probably some that runs high among anarchists in general - only a person who can see the potential for a world where order doesn't have to be imposed from without is probably only *going* to be able to do so because they already hold themselves to high standards for themselves and they believe that other people can (and, under the right circumstances) will do the same. When you hang around people who are like that, it becomes a reinforcing cycle. But I don't believe that's a bad thing.

I get this all the time: "Well, a world without any violence just isn't practical, so we have to compromise and allow this little bit of violence into the system to keep things stable." But if we keep compromising, how will the endgame of a world where we don't agress and hate ever be reached? And if you compromise your principles when it comes to who you're with, will you ever *really* be happy?

10:07 PM  
Anonymous miquie's crew said...

integrity is such a hard word to work with and accept in life, but i think you have found it. happiness can be found in anything, with another person is a bonus, but it can be found within self and others.
sorry this is making no sense, but i wanted to say hi and that i am planning on coming by this blog more often.
take care and know that i am still thinking of you, everyone ...

6:27 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

I agree with most everything you say here, but I love to play the Devil's Advocate.

You say "being good is basically defined by that struggle, the struggle for perfection." Perhaps. Or is the relationship less rigid than that? I can certainly think of some very bad people who strived for their definition of perfection. In fact, ultimate Good and ultimate Evil both seem to fit your description.

For that matter, isn't it possible to strive for the perfect compromise? I know, I know, not quite what you meant.

For a completely different view of perfectionism, check out this page.

12:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

your blog really got me and Illie talking about integrity lately.

And it makes me aspire to have the kind of integrity you do to!


8:11 AM  
Blogger Isaac said...

Integrity is not too much to ask in my opinion. My main thing I look for in a relationship is loyalty. I expect to be lied to eventually. I know, I myself, am not the most honest person. I pride myself on my loyalty though. Integrity seems like some faroff ideal, some combination of loyalty and honesty and some third magical ingredient. I don't know. The entry got me thinking, Mol. I may eventually leave xanga for blogspot, too. Haven't quite decided yet.

3:18 AM  
Blogger ACS said...

My view of break-ups is that even good people can say vile, hateful things because of the emotions coursing through the veins. Sure, your perfection could seem like a problem to her. After all, if there is nothing else to attack, where else should a person go? Simply attack the lack of things to attack!

Fear of imperfection often drives me. It is a good force when it can be harnessed for positive benefits, but sadly all too often it only paralyzes. After all, the only perfect things exist in ideas - such as concepts in geometry, the ideals of anarchism or any political system, Plato's forms, etc. It is not that perfection cannot be sought after, but that it should not be expected by any reasonable person.

I'm a pragmatist - I take a practical approach to problems and am concerned primarily with the success or failure of my actions.

For example, I wouldn't have voted for Nader if I knew that this would have allowed Bush and all the things that go with him.

I am sympathetic to people who are non-idealistic. For example, 99 percent of my clients are poor and have had wrong done to them, so they strike out. They never truly learned about the benefits of adhering to the ideal. Most of them only grew up learning that the weak are punished by society, and they don't want to be weak and hurt anymore. They are like the jilted lover, lashing out. Working with kids, the transformation is quite apparent. And the solution: locking them up where they get preyed upon the same way on the streets is a horrible idea. Few people are irredemable, but nobody is uncorruptible, save Job.

Here's to trying to save our fellow humans who could benefit from the intervention of idealists!

6:31 PM  
Blogger Food_lover said...

You're a bit of cynic. Maybe you just don't trust her. And you not trusting her is not necessarily her fault... besides perfection is boring.

5:23 AM  

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