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perfection
October 8, 2010 1:22 PM   Subscribe


 
I spent more than 12 hours writing this comment
posted by Thomas Tallis is my Homeboy at 1:31 PM on October 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


I spent more than 12 hours writing this comment

You forgot the period.
posted by AzraelBrown at 1:31 PM on October 8, 2010 [75 favorites]


Anyone who begins his own essay by writing, "Read it to the very end. I promise you will be affected in a way you have always needed to be" has already lost me.

And please, share this post on Facebook, twitter, and your blog. If you want the people around you to start being real, you have to be real first. I believe in the power of numbers and that enough people reading it might actually help shake down a few of the problems we cause for each other. If it's your first time here, we'd love to have you follow us. I promise it's not always this intense (or nearly this long). I'll post something really funny tomorrow.

Hmm, somebody desperately wants to go viral.
posted by amro at 1:33 PM on October 8, 2010 [14 favorites]


You keep on using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

But, really. Despite being a heartfelt piece, he's managed to cram nearly every negative human attribute into the same category and label. These self-help articles really creep me out sometimes.

That, and also the relentless SEO interspersed into the article and his site. I'm sure Dan's a great guy, but I always get an icky feeling whenever I read articles like that.
posted by schmod at 1:35 PM on October 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hmm, somebody desperately wants to go viral.

The number of people who write long articles hoping that no one reads them? Smaller than you think!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:36 PM on October 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


The number of people who write long articles hoping that no one reads them? Smaller than you think!

Clearly you have never been in academia.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 1:39 PM on October 8, 2010 [56 favorites]


Moving beyond the offputting style...

There are some good points in here, but they suffer by being lumped under the term "perfection". Sometimes he really does mean perfection. Most of the time he means "unfavorable comparison". And in the case of the boy who thought masturbating lots was morally bad, grouping it under "perfection" has some very problematic implications, since it implies that not masturbating lots would be the perfect ideal.

or on preview, what schmod said. I see from his followup that he is pretty fixated on his blog metrics.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:40 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


You aren't the only one who hates your body. We all hate your body.
posted by pracowity at 1:42 PM on October 8, 2010 [23 favorites]


I saw a post from this blog just this morning riding the coattails of the anti-bullying "It gets better" thing that's going on, and it had the exact same breathless "YOU MUST READS THIS ALL NOW FOR THE LIFE CHANGING" tone. Where is that... oh, I see. He's got them pulled out right at the top. And still another one I, see.

Maybe they're all super great and meaningful, but I don't think that approach works more than once. The second time it sounds like a schtick, the third time it just sounds like a template.
posted by rusty at 1:43 PM on October 8, 2010


The plaintive blog post on learning to overcome the obsession with perfection (or "unfavorable comparisons," or whatever) doesn't meet the diamond-hard exacting standards of Metafilter perfection. Woe betide us all!
posted by blucevalo at 1:49 PM on October 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


tl;dnr, but Selma Hayek—wowzer!
posted by stargell at 1:53 PM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hmm, somebody desperately wants to go viral.

Well, I do have this vial of weaponized ebola that I was just going to toss into the incinerator, but if you think it can be better used, I'm happy to offer it up...
posted by quin at 1:54 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I found the self-promotion very off-putting, too.

It occasioned some self-reflection on whether the distaste I felt was born of some kind of intellectual snobbishness. I'm still not sure about the whole thing.

It's not a bad article. Neither is the one he did entitled "You just broke your child. Congratulations."
posted by edheil at 1:55 PM on October 8, 2010


The plaintive blog post on learning to overcome the obsession with perfection (or "unfavorable comparisons," or whatever) doesn't meet the diamond-hard exacting standards of Metafilter perfection. Woe betide us all!

I see what you did there, but I think the problems with this piece are a bit more important than that, and you surely don't think he should get nothing but praise simply because his topic is perfectionism. The overriding problem, I think, is that he doesn't really question the ultimate, theoretical desirability of the goals he sees people perfectionistically trying to attain.

To call someone who kills themselves because they think masturbating is bad a "perfectionist", or to use the same term (as he does) to describe someone who kills themselves on learning she's pregnant out of wedlock, is to fundamentally miss the point. The problem (probably — I obviously don't know the details of the individual stories) is that these people live in societies with fucked-up values.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:58 PM on October 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Really? Really? Guy is trying to do something good and this is the response he gets from you guys?
posted by d1rge at 1:59 PM on October 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Ignored the self-promotion. That comes with the territory with some blogs.

It was very well-written, and powerful in spots. Thanks for posting it.
posted by zarq at 1:59 PM on October 8, 2010


Guy is trying to do something good and this is the response he gets from you guys?

Yes. Stop being such a perfectionist.
posted by muddgirl at 2:01 PM on October 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


I found that dreary and whiny rather than inspiring or insightful.
posted by modernnomad at 2:03 PM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't understand why this has been posted to MeFi.
posted by sid at 2:04 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


And in the case of the boy who thought masturbating lots was morally bad, grouping it under "perfection" has some very problematic implications, since it implies that not masturbating lots would be the perfect ideal.

Also "Your husband is not the only husband who's addiction sends him online for his sexual fulfillment instead of to you" sounds like it's talking about porn or masturbation in a marriage as if it's some kind of sign of addiction or dysfunction. The whole post definitely has a strong Christian sexual guilt vibe. I wonder how much this guy's personal issues with unattainable perfection stem from his faith, considering that a lot of Christianity comes down to avoiding sin and emulating a supernaturally perfect being.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:05 PM on October 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


I see what you did there, but I think the problems with this piece are a bit more important than that, and you surely don't think he should get nothing but praise

I see what you did too. You surely don't think that I was saying that he "should get nothing but praise."
posted by blucevalo at 2:05 PM on October 8, 2010


I could only get through half of the "perfection is..." before stopping and skimming the rest. Sure some of the examples are good but he's trying to cram everything into the umbrella term of "perfection".

The second half of the article plus self-promotion puts me off. Is there anything else in this article besides telling us not to live by other people's standards? Am I missing it?
posted by just.good.enough at 2:06 PM on October 8, 2010


What about a town called Malice?
posted by klangklangston at 2:11 PM on October 8, 2010


Yeah, this guy is pretty link-baity, I was sent one of his other posts "You just broke your child. Congratulations" just a few days ago. What's really perverse is reading both of those posts together. Here he comes out against "perfection", apparently not realizing that he's just repeating the same logic where something is the disease we must be cured of. In the other post, he observes a father behaving badly towards his son at Costco and then says "People... quite often put me up on a pedestal or sing my praises for loving [my son] more than most dads love their own kids."

In other words, he subtly lets us know he is the perfect father, and what follows is a maudlin description of how dads should behave, setting up an image of the "ideal father" that we should all be living up to, implicitly how to be like him. With no sense of irony, he promotes the very idea of perfection that he denounces as a disease just a few posts earlier, and then claims to have achieved it, so we have no excuse. What depresses me most is the zillions of comments hooked on his fake sentimental pseudo-wisdom and singing his praises.

That's inevitable - he claims that way to perfection is to accept our imperfections, and having done that, he proudly displays his perfection for the swooning crowd. But the only way to avoid the dangers of perfectionism is not to try to get rid of it, but to embrace it as the ideal form of imperfection, as the perfect flaw.
posted by AlsoMike at 2:11 PM on October 8, 2010 [13 favorites]


I believe there's two kinds of perfectionists - those that expect themselves to be perfect, and forgive others... and those who expect others to be perfect while forgiving themselves. Personally, I'd take more of the former if that meant fewer of the latter.
posted by muddgirl at 2:20 PM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


A disease called "Perfection."

Shouldn't the period be outside the quotes?
posted by nomadicink at 2:30 PM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


There are a lot of people who try to do something good, but (a) have an idea of what "something good" is that is not aligned with their audience's or (b) fail in the execution stage or (c) both. We can honor him for trying without actually liking his essay.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 2:31 PM on October 8, 2010


Sometimes I'm sad. Sometimes I'm not funny. Sometimes I just want to be alone. Sometimes I stay at home on a weekend because I just don't want to see the "Perfection" going on around me. Sometimes I want to drop-kick a perfect person's head across the room.
I'm sorry. Is this supposed to be insightful? I've heard more wisdom from a Dave Chappelle routine, and not passed off as so pathetically self-important.

The drive for perfection is what gives us art. It's what give us the things that make being human worthwhile. If you're going to write an article about the dangers of illusory desires to conform to false identities, then write that article. But first, read some philosophy done by people who actually thought about it for more than twelve hours, and didn't want a hug at the end.
posted by notion at 2:38 PM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I liked this article a lot. Thank you, St. Alia of the Bunnies, for posting it. Another word for wanting the world to think you're perfect is "pride" - and pride manifests itself in a variety of ways, including being snarky about something instead of responding to it earnestly. It's possible, I suppose, that the author is being overbroad by conflating a whole host of character flaws with pride, but I don't think so. The battle between grace and pride is in fact an all-encompassing battle, because the difference between the two is the difference between loving yourself and admitting your faults on the one hand, and ignoring them and letting them grow on the other.
posted by thesmophoron at 2:39 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


A disease called "Perfection."

Shouldn't the period be outside the quotes?


Nope.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:40 PM on October 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


That's an awfully white heterosexual middle-class "Perfection." I don't think the blogger is keeping it real enough. I'm afraid the next step will be crimeth.inc booklets. Don't make me have to keep it real. "Perfection" is man with his stomach sliced open, because he wanted to dual the greatest samurai, because his family was known for swordsmanship and he was their only son and had to prove himself to them.

Get real.

You aren't the only one who was just a fraction second too slow.
posted by fuq at 2:40 PM on October 8, 2010


It's pretty easy and sort of upsetting to brush of all criticism as "snark". There's some snark here, but there are some legitimate responses as well. Sometimes, coming from the same person!
posted by muddgirl at 2:41 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why didn't somebody, anybody, put their arm around that 12-year old boy and let him know that they loved him and would always love him?

Because he's always in the bathroom?
Hell, he's probably embarrassed just riding the bus, I suspect the last thing a 12 year old boy with an uncontrollable erection wants is a family member putting their arm around him telling him they love him, buddy.

Be bold about your weaknesses and you will change people's lives

All the best stories my friends and family tell, and pretty much the only one's we hold in any regard, are the ones on how badly you screwed something up. Oh, Uncle Buzz has climbed K2 again. Yeah whatever. Tell us about the time you electrocuted yourself trying to change the battery on your neighbor's Dodge.

It does seem like there aren't a lot of real people around. Some people seem like frigging robots. It's not just the women with heaps of mascara on dipping into the uncanny valley or the guys with uberwhite teeth and molded hair. ...although they're good examples.
There's always these fanatic types who've got some sort of pat answer for the worlds problem's pinning on big compassion buttons saying 'no, look at what I'M saying don't LOOK AT ME, because it's not ABOUT ME it's about blah blah blah'

I buy the falsity and pretense of trying to appear flawless. Lots of people engage in that kind of egotism and self-denial.
But weaknesses? As compared to what? I could kick the hell out of Stephen Hawking. Doesn't make him weak. I'm not an alcoholic. Is someone who is weaker than me?
It's disingenuous to cast these things as 'weakness.' I don't have any weaknesses. I'm perfect in that I'm me. And so is everyone else. And we all fuck things up. Little things. Big things.
In my case a LOT of both (start at about 8:01).
It's when we don't accept error as a natural state of affairs that we compound and reiterate the problem.
And it gets worse when we think of those things as something inherent. As though it doesn't take work and effort to build a life that satisfies you (and not someone/thing else).
posted by Smedleyman at 2:58 PM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Really? Really? Guy is trying to do something good and this is the response he gets from you guys?

Oxfam is trying to do something good. This guy is trying to sell some fleeting emotions on his blog.

I'm directing more ire at him than I should, but this weak strain of accomplishment in Western society is really starting to undermine a lot more than our pride. Every person should be loved and respected, but not praised unless they doing something worth praise. And, sorry, writing a substandard essay and getting people to pass it around is not praiseworthy.
This is me, weeping as I write, asking the good people of the world to find somebody to put their arm around and be "real". This is me, wishing that people would realize how beautiful they are, even with all of their imperfections. This is me, sad and desperate for the girls in this world to love themselves. This is me, a very imperfect man, trying to help others feel a little more perfect by asking you to act a little less perfect.
I mean, for fuck's sake, if this doesn't become a case study for savior complexes I don't know what could.
posted by notion at 2:59 PM on October 8, 2010 [16 favorites]


Hmm, somebody desperately wants to go viral.

Viral, you say?

Here are the numbers for the first week of the post:

Page views: more than 250,000
Facebook share count: more than 11,000
Twitter posts: more than 380
Comments: more than 800
Personal emails to me: more than 300
Blog mentions: more than 950

I do not share these numbers to boast the popularity of my work. I share these numbers to help you understand the importance of the message. The need for the message. The desperation for the message.

Source.
posted by Mister_A at 3:04 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyway, perfection is Selma Hayek.
/part of the problem
posted by Mister_A at 3:09 PM on October 8, 2010


That was a whole lot of words for "My definition of perfectionism is very broad, and I think those activities I classify as perfectionism are bad. Think of the children, and please link to me."
posted by moonbiter at 3:14 PM on October 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


I first saw this via pharyngula; P Z Myers liked it.
posted by TedW at 3:20 PM on October 8, 2010


Okay, let me get my methodological remark out of the way first, with a promise that it leads to a substantive complaint about Single Dad Laughing's project:
What is the disease called "Perfection"? Perhaps a list of its real-life symptoms will help you better understand it. We live in communities where people feel unconquerable amounts of pressure to always appear perfectly happy, perfectly functional, and perfectly figured. "Perfection" is much different than perfectionism. The following examples of "Perfection" are all real examples that I have collected from experiences in my own life, from confidential sources, or from my circle of loved ones and friends.
Yes, Euthyprho, but just at present I would rather hear from you a more precise answer, which you have not as yet given, my friend, to the question "What is perfection?" Remember that I did not ask you to give me two or three examples of perfection, but to explain the general idea which makes all perfect things to be perfect. Do you not recollect that there was one idea which made the imperfect imperfect, and the perfect perfect?

Maybe you think (as Euthyphro did) that this is just a rhetorical trick that distracts us from the issue at hand, and that we know what perfection is in this sense even if we can't quite explain it. That's a better response than Plato realized, but even on weaker accounts of meaning (like Wittgenstein's "family resemblance") Single Dad Laughing is open to the question: "Why are these examples of 'the disease called "Perfection"' rather than something else?

My answer is that this definition allows Single Dad Laughing to create cover for an odious worldview. Each of the examples of perfection involve someone trying to keep up appearances -- a good marriage, a chaste life, financial solvency, and so on. But the only thing that is relevant to the "disease of perfection" is the failure to live up to an ideal of some kind. SDL's definition of perfection (here's my methodological quibble becoming substantive) is neutral on whether that ideal is worth living up to in the first place.

But surely this matters for "perfection!" If I beat myself up because I'm not always as nice or generous as my neighbors are, well, that's one thing. Maybe I should try harder, but I probably ought to be easier on myself. But if I beat myself up for, say, not being as virulently homophobic as my neighbors, that's another matter entirely. Even if I were to feel just as badly in each scenario, the desire for "perfection" itself isn't the problem in the second case--the problem is what I desire to be perfect about.

To lever these examples apart even further, being "real" in the form of coming to terms with an inability to be perfectly generous makes sense insofar as we take it to mean accepting that although generosity is good, the expectation of "perfection" is unreasonable and so I am not blameworthy for failing to meet it. Applying this to the homophobia example seems ludicrous. If anything, my inability to meet the standard of perfection is a virtue (rather than merely being non-blameworthy) and, one hopes, is the precursor to recognizing that the ideal itself should be rejected

So why the neutrality? Take a look at the sex-suicide examples again. The masturbation-suicide example describes the boy's shame over "something most of us would consider negligible." The wedlock-suicide example recognizes the role of family shaming in the suicide, but explains both the suicide and shaming in the ideal neutral terms of "the disease called 'Perfection.'" Neither example questions the ideals that lead to the shaming and suicide in the first place. In fact, they can't be questioned from within SDL's framework, not only because perfection is ideal neutral but because "perfection" is a disease -- it just happens to people.

And yet, SDL insists that these are nevertheless instances of "weakness" on the part of all parties. And SDL insists that the solution is "being Real" in the form of accepting that weakness. So SDL wants me to reject "perfection" all right. Specifically, he wants me to reject the claim that the ideal, not me, is flawed, and that catastrophic human suffering is the fault of human sufferers, not the fault of what we decide to valorize as ideal.

One nasty consequence of this is that any example of human suffering ceases to become evidence against an ideal. Does valorizing chastity result in widespread suffering because so few can live up to it? Sure, but that's our fault because we aren't willing to admit our inability to live up to its demands. Does valorizing heterosexuality do the same? Sure, but that's our fault because we aren't willing to admit our inability to live up to its demands (SDL specifically mentions questioning sexuality in his list of things to be "real" about). Related to this, we can impose wildly unrealistic moral (or rather, "moral") demands with no regard for whether anyone can actually live up to them.

Another nasty consequence is that any failure to live up to an ideal actually worth valorizing is automatically excused, provided the excuse is made on the grounds of weakness. You can pick your own examples from SDL's site, but by this point, the ideology he's pushing ought to look pretty familiar, especially if you've ever heard anyone try to deflect questions about the moral status of homosexuality with the response, "I believe we're all sinners."

SDL's offering the same old "We're all sinners!" bullshit, whether or not it's couched in explicitly religious terms. This is no more revelatory than any other alter call, and just as hollow since "We're all sinners" studiously avoids asking any questions about what is and is not considered "sin", or in this case, "weakness" and why the lines are so drawn. For all the chest-baring confessionals, SDL avoids introspection altogether.

And that, Euthyphro, is why it's worth getting clear about your definitions from the start.
posted by Marty Marx at 3:31 PM on October 8, 2010 [28 favorites]


Read it to the very end. I promise you will be affected in a way you have always needed to be. I spent more than twelve hours writing this post because its message is that important to me.

Seriously? Really?
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 3:38 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]




"If you actually stop to think about some of these, you will cry as I did while writing it. If you don't, maybe you're infected with way too much of this "Perfection" infection"

I always had a sneaking suspicion that I'm simply too fucking perfect!
posted by JeNeSaisQuoi at 3:49 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


This guy could actually be useful if he didn't come across as such a sanctimonious, bloviating jackass every other second.

People see my relationship with Noah, and quite often put me up on a pedestal or sing my praises for loving him more than most dads love their own kids.

There is no coming back from a comment like that.

Douche. Bag.
posted by docpops at 3:55 PM on October 8, 2010 [13 favorites]


Nothing he said hasn't been said before, but it's probably been said more succinctly by your average high school motivational speaker, with fewer dramatic repetitions, and less obvious linkbaiting.

I could go on.

And he does!

Sometimes I stay at home on a weekend because I just don't want to see the "Perfection" going on around me.

Oh, please. You stay home on some weekends because you don't feel like putting on pants, just like the rest of us.
posted by katillathehun at 4:06 PM on October 8, 2010 [8 favorites]


Oh. Just. Jeez. God. From You just broke your child:

Do you have any idea how easy it is to make your child feel abject? It's as simple as letting out the words, "why would you do that!?" or "how many times have I told you..." Let me ask you this ... Have you ever cried through a child's funeral? I have.

Yeah. 'kay. Tell your child everything they do is perfect because you will regret that you didn't when they're IN A BOX.

WTF.
posted by katillathehun at 4:21 PM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Was this guy raised LDS? I checked his About page and it mentions 10 siblings. I don't think a lot of people give a goddamn about being perfect, or even equate the sorts of struggles mentioned with failing at "perfection". I'd never even heard of the concept until I started studying LDS history, beliefs, and culture.

Note: The About page has already been edited to plug his Perfection post.
posted by elsietheeel at 4:24 PM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Tell your child everything they do is perfect because you will regret that you didn't when they're IN A BOX.

I read this three times before I realized that it had nothing to do with B.F. Skinner.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 4:29 PM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh for pete's sake...*facepalm*
That should have been "altar call."

posted by Marty Marx at 4:55 PM on October 8, 2010


This is so not about perfection. It's about competitiveness. Competitiveness-- a desire to be better than or at least as good as other people-- is what he's really talking about. If people weren't so busy competing against one another or against some ideal they think they should live up to, they'd be what he calls "real" and would not feel compelled to beat themselves up in the ways that he describes.

I think the post is popular beyond the self promotion because everyone has become hypercompetitive in this market-driven society and feels that either as individuals or as families, the only thing to do is compete against others. Collaboration is socialism is for weaklings. Admitting flaws means you don't measure up and might not be a winner. Even parenting becomes a venue for misplaced competitiveness for people who feel that they aren't competing properly in the market.

Also, that "You broke your child." Deeply problematic and just as judgmental as the stuff he complains is hurting people in "perfectionism" as pointed out above. Yes, definitely bad to be mean to your child and unresponsive. You shouldn't do it: kindness, understanding and empathy are better, even when you have to discipline the kid. But it is also quite possible to be a good parent and have a very bad day. Children don't break that easily, thankfully.
posted by Maias at 5:05 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Was this guy raised LDS?

I can't quite put a finger on precisely why, but I've spent lots of time around Mormons, and SDL's essay would seem to make a whole lot more sense in that context (much in the same way that it helped Napoleon Dynamite make sense)

Anyway, does anybody want to take this over to MetaTalk? Most of the discussion seems to have devolved into criticisms of the author, rather than the article itself.
posted by schmod at 5:11 PM on October 8, 2010


A disease called SEO is more like it.
posted by formless at 5:11 PM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Beyond sophistry! Transcending the jejune! It's MONOMANIA!
posted by nj_subgenius at 5:15 PM on October 8, 2010


A 12-year-old killing themselves over "too much" masturbation was raised in a poisonous culture.
posted by maxwelton at 5:46 PM on October 8, 2010


My cursory internets research says yes he was.

Which explains a lot about the 12 year old so ashamed of masturbating that he killed himself.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:54 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Right. So reading it over with the knowledge that he is LDS it comes off as less smug to me. Rather it seems like the overzealous sharing that a newly converted Christian or atheist often does. I've just discovered this AMAZING THING and YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE IT TOO.

I'd guess that SDL has recently lost his faith and wants to share his discovery that things are better on the other side. Mormons who take the idea of perfection* to heart must struggle constantly with the stress of failure. It seems to me that they were the intended audience for this post. And if they can take some comfort in what he's written then more power to them.


* My understanding of the LDS concept of perfection is that of an outsider, so my apologies to any Saints reading if I get it wrong.

Essentially, all humans have the potential to be perfect. Spencer Kimball said that perfection is attainable. "'To try is weak.' To 'do the best I can' is not strong. We must always do better than we can." and "Being perfect means to triumph over sin. This is a mandate from the Lord. He is just and wise and kind. He would never require anything from his children which was not for their benefit and which was not attainable. Perfection therefore is an achievable goal."

So basically, you CAN be perfect, and if you're not, then you're weak. How depressing.

And yes, that's totally a simplification and I'm probably missing the point entirely. Sorry.

posted by elsietheeel at 6:30 PM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


This guy's kid is going to write one hell of a book blog one day.
posted by yellowbinder at 7:06 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, basically, this guy has reinvented the first three of the Four Noble Truths, only more self-centered and on an ugly webpage.
posted by No-sword at 7:15 PM on October 8, 2010


This guy's kid is going to write one hell of a book blog one day.

Ouch, yellowbinder. I was just thinking, "This is a terrible blog, but it's going to be an even worse book."
posted by notion at 7:29 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


This blog is amazing in it's shamelessness.
(a picture of his child pointing, supposedly at him, with a text balloon "you! Keep being awesome!" ?!?)
And people read it all the same apparently. Don't these people see the phoniness? Or are they phoney themselves? Or is it that when somebody says "I'm sincere and heartfelt" that they think "I like sincere and heartfelt. He must be a good guy"?

He should go in sales!
But then; I guess he already is.

Posting this to metafilter gives us an opportunity to bond over our feelings of repulsion.
Good post.
posted by joost de vries at 7:30 PM on October 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


From what former Mormons (to include my husband and other people I know) and children of Mormons (one's my coworker) tell me, there is an INSANE pressure in that culture to look and act "perfect." I hadn't realized when I saw this linked elsewhere that it was written by someone LDS but it makes sense.

OTOH I don't think "perfectionism" is necessarily linked to folks with a religious faith. I have seen plenty of it in the world from all sorts of sources. Everywhere you go, in just about every subculture you could name, people put their little masks on and pretend. For those of us who have places we can go and people we can be around where it is safe to be real? We are blessed.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:34 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


The wedlock-suicide example recognizes the role of family shaming in the suicide, but explains both the suicide and shaming in the ideal neutral terms of "the disease called 'Perfection.'" Neither example questions the ideals that lead to the shaming and suicide in the first place.

But what you're identifying as "ideal neutral" is also known as tolerance, so you're using his moral relativism as evidence of his moral fundamentalism - that seems not to work very well. I also think you're missing the theological implications of what you think he's saying. So maybe he's smuggling in some kind of crypto-fundamentalist Christian doctrine that we're all sinners, in a coded form? But to do that, he says perfection is a disease, a killer, a form of oppression. And in traditional Christianity, God is perfect and the source of all that is perfect, so if we read the coded message there, he's saying God is a disease, a killer, an oppressor. And he's supposed to be a secret fundamentalist who believes this? Something doesn't add up.
posted by AlsoMike at 7:48 PM on October 8, 2010


AlsoMike: Oh no, I don't mean to say that he's a moral relativist at all. Just the opposite. Maybe it would be clearer if I said that he takes for granted that these are failures to live up to some ideal but, by defining upholding this ideal as perfection, avoids any discussion of whether we should uphold that ideal in the first place. So it's ideal neutral in the sense that you could put any ideal into this framework to insulate it from critique, but that doesn't mean he endorses doing so.

We could do it with Soviet-style Marxism, in fact. Everyone goes around talking about how great everything is, but I'm going to get real: in my weakness I've had doubts about the wisdom of the purges.

We can give content to the ideal by supplying more examples, but whatever content we provide, the framework takes as given that it is actually a worthy ideal. That's a big problem if you want to say, as I do, that his examples of weakness are really examples of human suffering brought on by the unreasonable demands of indefensible moral systems, and that we should reject such ideals outright rather than admit our weakness in living up to them. Further, I argue that it doesn't make sense to talk of "perfection" without examining the ideal in this way. That's what I was trying to point out by comparing failing to be perfectly generous and perfectly homophobic.

So I'm not accusing him of writing a secret code so much as I'm accusing him of being insufficiently introspective about this whole perfection and being real matter. I think he ought to reject the ideal that would say the two suicides had anything to be ashamed in the first place. He thinks they needed more social space to admit they are weak and see that others are also weak, like some sort of Immorality Anonymous meeting. I think that's fucked up, but we can only have that discussion by looking at the ideal that's behind this notion of perfection.

God is perfect and the source of all that is perfect, so if we read the coded message there, he's saying God is a disease, a killer, an oppressor.
No, I don't think he's saying this at all. I think he's saying that trying to keep up the appearance that we are "perfect" is a disease. The family who shamed their daughter to suicide did so because they were "infected" with the disease of perfection. On SDL's view, the family and daughter should have admitted their weakness, but, significantly, the family's failure to do so is excused by the same keeping-up-appearances disease he uses to explain the suicide! By pathologizing the shaming itself, SDL forecloses an important alternative analysis: it is immoral and fucked up to think there is something wrong about a lack of sexual chastity in the first place.

So, sure, God is perfect and the source of all perfection. But I explicitly do not think that SDL is saying that God is a disease or an oppressor. Perfection is not a disease because we're imperfect--my whole complaint is that "What is perfection?" is never examined--rather, our inability to admit our failures to be perfect is a disease we must cure by announcing our failures to be perfect.

This is standard, fallen-nature, wretched-of-the-earth Christian stuff that precedes a call for folks to come to the front of the church to get saved and reaffirm the rectitude of the moral rules they've failed to live up to so far. I'm well aware that not all Christians buy into that and further limit my beef to the doctrine itself. I don't see a dime's worth of difference between it and SDL's suggestion we be real about our disease of perfection.
posted by Marty Marx at 8:51 PM on October 8, 2010


A disease called perfection "patriarchy."

FTFY. Or at least in half the instances.
posted by soviet sleepover at 9:06 PM on October 8, 2010


Uhh well err thanks for posting this St. Alia. I liked it a good deal and felt where he was coming from. Alrighty then.
posted by Danila at 10:07 PM on October 8, 2010


Not really apropos to what the blog is talking about, but I always loved what one of my English teachers said: "Perverse pursuit of perfection produces procrastination and practically paralytic panic."
posted by kmz at 10:31 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Chain letter
posted by pianomover at 10:45 PM on October 8, 2010


I think we all when growing up need to find a way to deal with our 'external self', our own awareness of how we think others will perceive us, versus how we are without looking in a mental mirror and what our skills are in uniting the two.
Some people come to the conclusion for a while that the external self is nonsense. And that appearances and impressions don't matter. This is a tempting position for geeky people to take.
Personally I believe that the external self comes with us being social animals and our ineradicable need to be liked, desired and make a living.
As adolescents we experiment with different social groups and find out what external self we can make work with our somewhat given internal self.

I agree with marty marx that the term 'perfection' glosses over all the differences that different social groups and their norms and values entail for our external self.

Also I think that it's nonsense to oppose this supposed perfection with a simple given atomic reality. As in 'keeping it real'.
I believe that 'keeping it real' is just another 'external self'. It comes apparently with specific values as to what being a good parent means f.i. Hopefully it's an external self that people can make work, can live up to, that's closer to their needs and penchants.

But the most egregious fault in his whole diatribe is that he wraps the keeping it real message in an extremely commercial self aggrandising package. As such, let's say, he doesn't strike me as the best example of his proclaimed creed.
posted by joost de vries at 11:05 PM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


The only thing more perfect than the aforelinked disquisition is the comments in this thread.
posted by mistersquid at 11:28 PM on October 8, 2010


My understanding of the LDS concept of perfection is that of an outsider, so my apologies to any Saints reading if I get it wrong. "'To try is weak.' To 'do the best I can' is not strong.

Essentially, all humans have the potential to be perfect. Spencer Kimball said that perfection is attainable.


So you're saying Mormons are basically the disciples of Yoda?

I did not know that.
posted by moonbiter at 2:01 AM on October 9, 2010


Aw, man. I messed up that citation massively.
posted by moonbiter at 2:02 AM on October 9, 2010


I am crying while I write that I wish I hadn't clicked on the link.

I can hear the eerily even modulations of his speaking voice deep in my soul.
posted by Arquimedez Pozo at 4:02 AM on October 9, 2010


I am wanking crying as I write this...
posted by fullerine at 7:06 AM on October 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Moonbitter: Hilariously, you are not the first person to bring that up.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:38 AM on October 9, 2010


Ah, this makes more sense in a context of "He grew up in a completely different culture than I did, and just discovered that he doesn't have to live that way any more."

Thanks for the context, all!
posted by muddgirl at 7:42 AM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


“From what former Mormons (to include my husband and other people I know) and children of Mormons (one's my coworker) tell me, there is an INSANE pressure in that culture to look and act "perfect." I hadn't realized when I saw this linked elsewhere that it was written by someone LDS but it makes sense.”

St. Alia, my opinion as a practicing Mormon is that it's even worse than that, at least where I live. There is shockingly little tolerance in the community for uniqueness. There is tremendous pressure to adhere to the same brand of “perfection” as everyone else. I would expect to be called in by my Bishop to discuss his concerns if I were preaching conflicting doctrine or someone thought I was abusing my wife, but something has gone wrong when the concerns he raises are about whether our home-schooling of our children is effective or whether the fact that my wife has not yet earned her driver's license means that she is not as independent as she ought to be. We make intelligent, informed decisions and plans in our family, and these things are no one else's business. My strong suspicion that these concerns were brought forward by an anonymous third party whom I am denied the right to confront is infuriating. Hypocrites within the church are too blind to see that they are dishing out the same persecution to their peers that they complain about from critics outside the church.

I am firmly committed to my faith and its doctrine, and I support my Bishop in his calling. There's a fairly common saying within our church, that the Church of Jesus Christ itself is perfect, but its members are not. Of course, this only applies to everyone else.

As for the article, I'm not sure if I've provided more relevant context, but I will say that I agree with most of the negative comments about it in this thread.
posted by dopeydad at 12:30 PM on October 9, 2010


Message I'm getting from this thread: it's wrong to criticize anything created with good intentions, be it lackluster and chock full of veiled religious moralizing or not
posted by tehloki at 4:41 PM on October 9, 2010


this guy is a microphone away from talk radio pundit. good intentions? i don't know if his intentions go beyond stroking his own ego.
posted by blendor at 1:57 PM on October 13, 2010


…say, not being as virulently homophobic as my neighbors, that's another matter entirely.

Even if I were to feel just as badly in each scenario, the desire for "perfection" itself isn't the problem in the second case--the problem is what I desire to be perfect about.


This is an important truth.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:27 PM on October 14, 2010


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