Imperfection is Bliss

September 13, 2010
Suresh Naig

Do you know he masturbates? My father alleged, referring to my son who was an adolescent, 8 years back. My father, who was nearing his 80th birthday then, is known for his etiquette by the lack of it. He always basks in the aura of Mr. Perfect and to him all the others are imperfect. He expected me to throw tantrums and admonish my son, to wean away his habit so as to improve his academic performance.

I responded, 'I don't know about his masturbation, but I know for sure you would have indulged in it and certainly I do indulge'. I continued, 'it is a part of growing up and nothing sinister about it. Let us forget it.' My father was shocked by my response and left it at that. This conversation took place in the privacy of my secluded study and nobody else listened to our brief interaction.

The answers for most of our social problems lie in the above brief conversation. We are intolerant to others' imperfections; we want others to change; we want others to be courteous; and seldom have we looked inwards to our imperfections. One day in late 80's, I wanted to buy a cigarette waiting for my bus at the bus station in Calicut. (Cigarettes were sold in bus & railway stations then). The shopkeeper was very busy selling petty goods to a large floating clientèle. I placed a coin on the lid of one of the glass jars on the threshold of the shop which separated the shopkeeper from the customers, but it slipped and fell into the ever open cash draw of his table. When I demanded a cigarette relating to the coin fell into his draw, he gave me a cold stare and told me in Malayalam to piss off. I moved from the shop with a red face out of insult. For a very long time this incident bothered me, because I was branded as a cheat by an ordinary shopkeeper, who could never measure up to me in many things.

It has taken many years for me to look things from the angle of the shopkeeper. He must have encountered all kinds of people good, bad and neutral. Since he had to face only a floating crowd every other day, every person who visits his petty shop was a faceless and nameless entity. He must have also encountered many well dressed people indulging in petty cheating and thieving in the bus station, and the benefit of doubt weighed very much in favor of his commercial establishment than in extending courtesy towards me. His logic was more directed towards his commercial survival than injuring my character. The moment I realized the fact, I had learnt another life lesson.

In early 90's, I attended a sales meeting of my company as a middle management executive. During the course of interactions the discussion veered around the methods in correcting errant sales representatives. One of my colleagues responded, 'I will withhold the expense statement of the representative' and we were all stunned, because of its sensitive nature. The top man of marketing - who was my mentor, asked him, 'where from you got this idea?' My colleague responded, 'you only have said in an earlier occasion to do so sir'. We were inquisitive as to how our mentor was going to respond. He said, 'had I said so it must be right'. We discussed the smart reply of our mentor for a long time among ourselves in awe.

After so many years of rumination, I realize the fallacy of his statement and also the answer for many of our interactive problems. Most of our problems originate from our ego "if it is mine it ought to be right" so much so we all suffer from MSDS syndrome (my shit doesn't stink). Anything attached with "mine" derives bloated values in our self calibrated value system, seldom we recognize our mistakes. So as to camouflage our mistakes we indulge in justification.

It follows a standard cycle:

"I am meticulous and hence do not commit mistakes - I do not commit mistakes - I am perfect - if it's mine it has to be perfect - if it's a mistake it's not mine"

Some years back I was witness to a session conducted by a self proclaimed Guru at Coimbatore. The participants were the who's who of Coimbatore, drawn from different fields and the motley crowd comprised of business magnates, successful entrepreneurs, practicing doctors, educationists etc. The Guru sat on a chair placed at one end of the large hall, oblivious of the gathered people and the happenings. It was a gathering of around 30 persons, most of them past their middle age. Every person had to share his or her past experience with the Guru and all the people who ventured to share their experiences broke down mid way. Many of them sobbed uncontrollably and the Guru was unmoved, he never ventured to console them, but allowed them to sob, shedding their inhibitions.

I realized inhibitions and ego are interrelated. As perfectionists we are cocooned and this cocoon we call it as ego, which leads to several inhibitions, one such is sobbing before others. This Guru systematically broke down this acquired inhibition and once it is shed they sob and laugh like kids. The pent up emotions are released and after sobbing all of them looked blissful.

Once a person realizes his/her imperfections and yet not ashamed of it, one will not have the need to justify every act and word; once this justifying tendency stops one will not have any hesitation in owning the mistakes and faults; once the hesitation is stopped, accusing others stops; once the accusation stops hatred is stopped; once the hatred is stopped it results in bliss. The key to bliss is realization of one's imperfections and therefore it leads us to a vital question. Is bliss perfect or imperfect?

A marketing professional, yet believes in talking only the truth. An optimistic maverick remains a puzzle, puzzling others.
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