Ordinary Perfection on Demand

 

Victor Pelevin has been described by Time as a "psychedelic Nabokov for the cyber-age." His 1996 "Buddha’s Little Finger" is, to my mind, an extended “who-am-I?” meditation (that utilizes Soviet and post-Soviet Russian cultural metaphors).

The following is a description of "ordinary perfection" from Pelevin’s writing:

"I [...] felt myself falling under the hypnotic influence of imminent danger. Chapaev began explaining something to two soldiers and I went over to the nearest horse and sank my fingers into his mane. I can recall that second perfectly – coarse hairs under my fingers, the slightly sour smell of a new leather saddle, a spot of sunlight on the wall in front of my face and a quite incredible, incomparable feeling of the completeness, the total reality of this world. I suppose it was the feeling which people attempt to express in phrases like "living to the full." It lasted for no more than a single brief second, but that was long enough for me to realize yet again that this full, authentic sense of life can never, by its very nature, last any longer." (p. 202).

Now: what is the anatomy of this moment? Let me highlight a couple of elements here.

1. "incomparable feeling of the completeness, the total reality of this world" – you see, we experience perfectionistic frustration when reality doesn’t conform to our theory of how reality should be; the fact is that it is our theory of how reality should be that doesn’t conform to how reality actually is; in moments of "ordinary perfection" there is no discrepancy between what we think should be and what actually is: the "total reality of this world" is somehow enough. Why is that? Have we lucked out and caught a glimpse of something rare? Perhaps. But perhaps, for a moment, we dropped our ego-based expectations of how reality should be and as a result we are rewarded by the "incomparable feeling of the completeness" of what is.

2. "I went over to the nearest horse and sank my fingers into his mane. I can recall that second perfectly" – notice how such moments of "ordinary perfection" are anchored in sensation (feeling) rather than cognition (thought).

3. "I suppose it was the feeling which people attempt to express in phrases like "living to the full." The key word here "attempt." Moments of "ordinary perfection" are beyond words. All descriptions are but approximations of the ineffable.

4. "It lasted for no more than a single brief second, but that was long enough for me to realize yet again that this full, authentic sense of life can never, by its very nature, last any longer." I am not sure if I entirely agree with Pelevin here. I do, however, agree that in these moments of "ordinary perfection" there is, indeed, a change in time perception.

Learning to recognize ordinary perfection is a vital existential skill.  What helps you in this process?  Share your perfection-recognition know-how.

 

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About Pavel Somov, Ph.D.

My intent is to help you reclaim eating moments of your life with meaning and moderation; to help you leverage self-acceptance and compassion; and to help you rediscover your essential self. Pavel Somov, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist and the author of "Eating the Moment" (New Harbinger, 2008), "Present Perfect" (NH, 2010), "The Lotus Effect" (NH, 2010), "Smoke Free Smoke Break" (2011), and "Reinventing the Meal" (in press, 2012). He is in private practice in Pittsburgh, PA. http://www.eatingthemoment.com http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pavel-somov

Comments

  1. For what it is worth:

    What helps in this process?

    - listen without interpreting

    I have practiced this and it makes it possible to really listen to someone else, really listen to the sounds of nature etc.

    You then never judge in the moment.

    It is the same when seeing things, seeing them without interpreting.

    It is the same with using all our senses.

    Children do this because they have not been made aware of their so-called "thinking" process (yet).

    But thinking is also a process one has to go through during a part of one's life.

    And then getting older, the memory of living without thinking (spontaneity) seems to come back again in a natural way.

    Well I can write a whole book about this, but to me the only thing that is true is that every one has to experience it each in their own way and own interpretation :)

    Am creating my own mesh!

    Being on the heartphone at both ends :)

  2. Sometimes it helps not to buy into this whole "this is the only shot you get at life; make every minute count" philosophy that thrill-purveyors peddle. I think of life as multiple lifetimes, connected with the thread of karma, drop all yardsticks and comparisons, let the judgmental pulls fall away… and then every moment just follows the last and precedes the next.