by Alexander Smith
While contemplating his future, the young man realized that his perfection was the only true, noble goal worth his undivided attention. The man had grown tired of what he perceived as flawed living and knew that with willpower and perseverance, he could whittle away the faults to reveal the perfection lying underneath.
On that day of decision, he wrote down a list of all his imperfections, flaws, and faults. The list went on for pages. As he reviewed it, he felt guilt and anger. Why was he so flawed? What had he done to deserve so much misalignment from his perfect self? Though bitter, he focused on the gargantuan task in front of him. He knew that he must dedicate many years of daily attention if all his flaws were to be righted. Thus he began; he would master his imperfections and become the perfect man.
After much deliberation, he prioritized his flaws. He figured he should right one that would create the biggest impact on his life right now. So, he chose to start perfecting his outer world first. He sought stability, balance, and security. Without that he saw he would have unreliable ground to stand on during his journey to perfection. So, the man’s journey began. He spent one year building a modest home just outside of town in the forest. When he wasn’t building, he forged ties with his community and settled his roots. He became vital to the small town and achieved a basic foundation for his perfection that he could use as a launching pad. Finished with this task, he returned to his list of flaws. From there, he determined that his lack of creative expression was the next imperfection he needed to right.
Because he wasn’t expressing himself creatively, the man felt empty and useless. While he had the security of a home and the acceptance from his community, he needed more in order to reach his perfection. He knew that mastering his creativity was vital to ascension. Art was his answer. Perfection in art was not his goal, yet the perfection of his own creativity was. He began by forging a daily routine dedicated to his creative actions in order to make something new in the world. Showing up every day and being creative was hard for the man. It was new and challenging. He struggled. The man didn’t always want to do his art but achieving perfection required force and discipline. To eradicate his imperfections, he needed to persevere. Every time he sat down to create, he demanded greatness.
Day after day, he perfected his creativity. After two years of daily practice, the man had finally created a magnificent work of art. Upon its completion, he shared it with the world. It was accepted and loved. In return he received money, more money than he expected. He used it to fortify his home and his stability so he could continue his journey to perfection unfettered. As his home situation improved, he felt more secure. His place in the community grew larger; he earned more respect. Because he had engaged his creativity, the man felt fulfilled and it was easy for others to love him. He expected less from his relations, and gave more. This improved the quality of his life further, and he was happy.
Satisfied with how he had perfected his creativity and relationships, he revisited the list of his flaws. It was time for him to master his next imperfection. Since he had created something of value and shared it with the world, he had earned recognition, respect, and money. Despite this, he felt a lack of self-confidence in putting his creations and himself out there. Anxiety arose every time he presented. The man knew this was a fault that blocked him from his goal.
As the man began studying this weakness in self-confidence, he discovered a punctured hole inside himself that was bottomless and black. It oozed self-criticism and doubt in the moments he needed self-assurance and love. This black ooze paralyzed him from expressing his perfection. The man journeyed into his thoughts for that’s where he believed the bottom of the pit lied. He set out to eradicate the critical way he spoke to himself ripping those thoughts from their roots. Then he started to cultivate the resulting void with new thoughts based on truths in his life. He spent three years on this mental overhaul until he felt more confident and clear about himself and everything he had built.
Next he decided to perfect the way he presented himself in the world. He choose to perfect his posture, his body language, and his speech. Because these were often scattered and lacked confidence, they seemed weak to him. He despised how he couldn’t articulate himself perfectly or stand up straight, especially in moments of anxiety or doubt. These feelings eroded his confidence. His delivery of speech and the way he stood were imperfections he needed to master.
For five years, he perfected how he presented himself to the world. He worked on standing up straight by crafting his body into excellent shape with exercise and stretching. He stood in front of a mirror and practiced speaking. He watched his facial expressions, he watched his eyes. He mastered how he moved his lips and his mouth. He crafted the speed of his speech and the tone of his voice until it approached the perfect vision he had of himself.
Progress over those five years was slow, but since he practiced constantly, improvement came. As he perfected the way he presented himself to the world, people started to treat him differently, providing further evidence of his progress. They offered more respect. They listened intently. He gained more influence. Audiences offered him speaking opportunities, and he would awe the growing crowds as the sat rapt in attention. The man’s perfect presentation began to shape the world around him.
With his influence spreading, the man felt satisfied that he had perfected his self-confidence and the way he presented himself to the world. Once again, he returned to his list of flaws. Although his creative work inspired others and benefited them, he still thought of himself first. Selfishness and narcissism were not in alignment with perfection. He set out to expand his point of view so he thought of others and their lives more. His next project, he decided, was to build and fortify his compassion and empathy.
The man understood that this would be the hardest part of his journey so far. Upon reflection, he witnessed deep-seated anger block him from feeling the compassion he sought. Instead of giving in to it, he sought out those who needed his help in order to expedite his ascension. For years, he worked with the poor and the needy, but he hated them for their blatant imperfections and their unawareness of their ability to change their circumstance. Many of the poor had no hope for a better life. But he knew that the perfect self he sought would love these people despite their flaws and would open his heart to them in compassion no matter what circumstances they lived in. He began to catch himself comparing and judging other people for their flawed lives, stopped the thought, and replaced it with compassion. Despite this disciplined practice, the man still saw thousands of ways the world’s hopeless could improve their lot by taking just a little more action.
But the man practiced compassion and brought his empathetic presence to every situation. After ten years of hard work, he began to see improvements. He started to feel for others, no matter their lot in life. He was less selfish; he began to understand them. He thought of them as people before his judgmental thoughts could arrive to gild his experience of them with ill-gotten labels. The man began to love the people because he could see that he shared a connection to everyone and everything in the world. The journey they were on may be different from his, but he learned to respect their unique path.
With his heart moved to the right place, the man felt like he had neared perfection in his expression of empathy and compassion. Now he returned to his dwindling list of flaws. Upon inspection, he saw that he had remedied and checked off many of the faults that he had initially written down all those years earlier. He felt pride for his immense progress. His outer world mirrored his single-pointed journey. His life was stable and balanced. He wanted not for creativity, money, or relations. He took right action and had excellent esteem for himself. He had opened his heart and forgiven others for their flaws and accepted them as they are. He no longer carried the brew of anger and guilt inside him.
Yet, he was not perfect. He had never told anyone about his lifelong journey to become the perfect man and this fact haunted him. He still feared others’ rejection of his goal and the disappointment he would feel at not being accepted for his truth. The repression of his speech and honesty on the matter was hurting him more now than he had ever noticed in the past. How could he achieve perfection if his inner world held not the integrity of his outer?
The man sought the words to express his journey in a way that others would understand. He journaled and wrote his memoirs for fifteen years. The act of expressing his deepest emotions on a daily basis, even only on paper, began to free the man to find more clarity and purpose on his journey. His writings united his feelings with his deepest thoughts. He felt an empowerment blooming inside, just like he knew achieving his perfect version would feel. He started to feel like he had unified his outer and inner world into a clear and authentic voice. He had found his complete expression and had communed with it.
Despite his committed journey to perfection, the significant progress he had made, and the abundant impact he had imparted on the world, the man frequently worried that his life would end before he would be able to achieve his lifelong goal. No matter how hard the aging man pushed these painful thoughts from his mind, he couldn’t defeat them for long. Their poisonous tendrils resurfaced during vulnerable moments and eroded his equanimity.
The man recognized that his next level of perfection came in the complete mastery of his mind. He needed to work with the invisible thoughts of worry and doubt that plagued his resolve and clouded his vision of the future. Otherwise he would never become the self he saw himself to be. The man spent hour after hour silently watching these hidden vipers strike at inopportune times and with such a vehemence that it terrified him. He vowed to study his ethereal adversary and learn its weakness to gain immunity from its poison.
Monumental battles raged inside the invisible universe residing within the man’s mind. He tried to choose peace over fighting but lost more often than he won. Some days, he succeeded. Other times he failed and found himself wallowing in the worry that he’ll never achieve his foolish goal of perfection.
Two decades passed as the man left his prime and entered the winter of his existence. His spiritual munitions neared depletion, yet he fought to win the everlasting victory over his flawed humanity. He chiseled away at the rough edge of inadequacy and smoothed over the faulted surface in order to give birth to the flawless, the perfect.
At last his struggles grew fewer and fewer and eventually subsided altogether. The plague of doubt and worry had been subdued. He had done what few in this world do; he had mastered his mind.
With this achievement, the near-perfect man looked back at the life he had lived. Old now, he remembered the day his journey toward perfection began more than a half century ago. He was but an idealistic youth, foolish, courageous, and eager to depart on the harrowing challenge he set before himself. He saw how he had progressed along the path most others deemed impossible. The near-perfect man recognized his contribution, his legacy, the impact he left for the good and the betterment of the world. The man saw that he had mastered himself in entirety.
The man accepted that there was nothing left within himself to right. His list of flaws was complete. He had done all he could. Despite achieving the impossible, he felt consumed by a sadness more ancient than the universe itself. Although he had mastered himself, his mind, his body, his thoughts, his deeds, he had yet to commune and master the entirety of the human experience and reach perfection. For now he saw, from his perch at the top of the mountain, that perfection lived in the unity of everything, not in the division and conquering of its parts.
On his deathbed, the near-perfect man cried. He had done everything required to perfect his life and become his best self. Yet ultimate perfection was still beyond his grasp. In order to achieve that, he saw that he would need to let go of everything he had ever achieved or mastered, including his biggest achievement, himself. He cried and sobbed until his eyelids and cheeks were streaked with salt. The old man gripped to his lifetime achievements like a carpenter’s vice to a block of chiseled oak.
Realizing that his time alive was nearing its end, the man revisited his vow to achieve perfection. What else could he do? Deep inside the man knew the answer, but it was too painful to look at directly. To fully realize his goal, he knew that he needed to let go of the lifetime journey itself, the one thing he incessantly worked for in life, in order to reach the highest peak he sought. His mortality and humanity were the last things he needed to overcome, for only when he moved beyond those, could he experience the entirety of the divine perfection he desired.
His breathing turned ragged, and the old man struggled inside his dying body. Family, loyal relations, those he had touched with his voice, waited, wretched, by his bedside. They prayed for his health and begged him to quit his dreadful journey and know peace. The old man’s legacy was laid out at his feet and stood by his bedside.
By the time his tears had dried, his resolve to reach his goal had rekindled. He felt the same unstoppable force had driven him as a youth to pursue this unrealistic goal despite any sane person’s warning or counsel against it. The dying man accepted that the only way on toward perfection, to achieve his dream, was to let go of, to forego, everything he had built, achieved, done, and worked for in his life, including the man he now was. To let go of that would be to accept the perfect unity of everything.
In that moment, he did.
He felt an energy beam strike the crown of his head and travel through him with a warm love few others fully experience. It lighted up his head, his throat, his chest, his torso, his abdomen, his pelvis, and his four limbs. A radiance, a lightness overcome the now perfect man. He felt himself floating. He felt himself as everything, as joy, as peace, as a purity that included all aspects of life and anti-life. And it flowed through his physical, his mental, his emotional, his spiritual being. The perfect man’s face held the purest smile, although for just a few moments.
Those by the perfect man’s bedside later claimed he indeed had hovered up from his bed. Few others believed them. They tried to tell about how the man’s spirit left his body and filled the room with an energy so pure, so hopeful, and so good, that it changed them in that instant, before his spirit ascended to somewhere higher. But those at the man’s bedside were able to impart one message clearly. Before he completed his journey and was gone from this world, the perfect man imparted one last message to those of his legacy standing by his bedside on that last day of his life. He spoke of perfection from perfection: I Am. Then he moved on from this world.
Alexander is fiction writer, poet, and freelance copywriter living in Providence, RI with his wife. He curates the Creative Writing Outloud podcast, practices yoga, and plays the drums. His work has been published in Missing Providence, Love Is, For Poets Must Love, and is upcoming in City & Sea. Find him on Twitter.