In one of my favorite episodes of the television classic, “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” neighbors Millie & Jerry are puzzling over why Rob (Dick Van Dyke) and Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) ruined their party.
“Sure they have their faults,” Millie says at one point. “Everybody does. People would be pretty dull without them.”
I like that thought. It’s forgiving and human. Yet it implies perfection of character is dull, and I challenge that. Of course to challenge it properly I’d have to define perfection and I’m not sure I can do that adequately.
I speak here of the everyday interactions of most people, not the extreme behavior of the handful who destroy without remorse. When it comes to truly evil behavior, I think we all can agree a little more perfection is desperately needed.
The devout will tell you perfection is our nature without sin, but when it comes right down to it, is sin black & white or does it come in shades of gray? Forget it, I’m not having that conversation.
To others being perfect means fitting a standard of beauty, intellect, achievement or the like, but that doesn’t address character. Something to consider if your definition includes being measured on a scale.
Still others will say being perfect is being complete, having the sum parts required for the whole. That’s a hard concept to grab hold of and make practical, and again, I’m not going there.
Here’s what this comes down to in day-to-day terms: Perfection seemingly wouldn’t create conflict, and conflict is needed for good storytelling. At their heart, most stories need to have a good guy and a bad guy. Some stories need a particularly fiendish bad guy.
We like our stories. It’s one way we know to distinguish and measure our lives against others. Therefore, we need our conflict, and in that way can grudgingly accept our imperfection.
How many of us have heard someone say, “I’d rather go to hell than to heaven; hell is going to be a lot more fun”?
I disagree. I don’t think perfection would be dull. I think it’s unknown.
All major religions seek God, seek perfection, yet at their heart recognize it won’t be found here on earth. So until we find that place where we are our perfect selves, I guess our faults are part of what make our story compelling.
This post is an updated version of a post originally published in May 2015.
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