Thinking About – Perfection and Wholeness

1024px-A_daisy_and_two_blue_flowersWhen I was searching for a spiritual path the idea of perfection wasn’t something that influenced my choice. I guess if it was I would have chosen Buddhism over Druidry and Paganism. Self-development is obviously a life-long quest and we learn throughout our lives, but the quest and idea of perfection as the ultimate goal of a spiritual path just leaves me cold. In fact I find it crippling.

As a modern Druid I take nature as my teacher. Is Nature perfect? Some would say yes. Others might say that Nature is deliciously flawed, others that Nature just is what it is. As a human I am an intrinsic part of the natural world. Some would say that we are separate from it. Nature programs are usually about anything but human life. Bears, birds, fish, wolves, the tundra, the jungle, those are nature – the city, humans, domesticated dogs and cats, they are something else. I don’t see it that way. But I can learn from Nature as a teacher, even though I am an intrinsic part of it. And nature teaches me survival, acceptance, wholeness, and integration. It doesn’t teach me that perfection is the goal.

This train of thought came about because I went to the British Grand Prix on Sunday. One of the things my Dad has wanted to see all his life was a live Grand Prix. He’s 80 this year and I’m 50 so we thought we would treat ourselves to joint birthday presents and go. It was a wonderful day spend with my Father and an incredible experience. But when I posted my location on Twitter and Facebook a few people voiced confusion about how a Druid could like Formula One racing.

Perfection reared it’s head once more.

I am a Druid. But I also love supernatural scary movies, Along with folk music I’ve also always loved heavy metal. I’m a avid reader of Stephen King. I thoroughly enjoyed the blokey banter and craziness that was Top Gear. I eat meat. Many of those things might seem incongruous to the path of a Druid, but only if the search for perfection is part of Druidry. How can I be opposed to Fracking and yet enjoy a Grand Prix? The same way I guess as a vegetarian won’t eat meat but will consume dairy products, even though veal is a direct result of the diary industry. We do what we can with what we can. The moment we expect anyone who has a view on the environment to be perfect is the moment we paralise the protest movement.

Humans are complex and paradoxical beings. I guess you could be perfect, if you lived in a cave, drank only rain water, ate only fruit fallen naturally from a tree ( but make sure you plant the seeds afterwards). But we don’t live like that. So we have to do our best with what we have.

I have never claimed to be perfect and I never will. I try to embrace what it means to be human living this life on this incredibly beautiful and diverse planet. I think I prefer to get to know who I am, notice the light and shadow, understand they are there, acknowledge them, and aim for integration and wholeness over perfection. To me that feels closer to what I see in nature, it feels like something that is achievable, something that I can understand and aim for. So the Druid and the Formula One fan can live within the same person, occupy the same space, and look each other in the eye with understanding and respect.

20 Comments

  1. Rowan July 8, 2015 at 9:05 am - Reply

    Yeah!! Spot on Damh.

  2. kevin chesters July 8, 2015 at 10:14 am - Reply

    I agree and you got british winner for your dad as well.I try practise what I preach in my rituals but like you say you are only Human. I do like the idea of living in a cave . Like i spend my time in Hayfield. Keep up the good work dave Brill new album Bb Kevin

  3. Bronzewing July 8, 2015 at 10:29 am - Reply

    Hear Hear! Also, it is this sort of attitude from Druids that keeps us from losing our sense of humour and our enjoyment of life. Yes we like to think, sometimes we think a lot, but we also like to have fun and to get messy. It is something I love about us.

  4. the Kite July 8, 2015 at 10:30 am - Reply

    Well said brother Bard! I would even add that maybe perfection and wholeness are largely abstractions invented to keep ourselves seeking, when the nature to which we belong is already complete as it is. This could remind us not to be so absorbed in our own personal development and instead to see it as a local part of the total unfolding of Universe. We tend to think that something that is still unfolding isn’t perfect yet. A little contemplation of actual unfolding should fix that, whether through examining a seedling or observing the stars wheeling in the night sky.

    So much the worse for our seeming contradictions. Environmentally conscious pagans burning petrol and diesel to go off ‘into nature,’ Seekers after harmony and balance who can’t seem to get on with each other. Nature mystics with morals derived from Christianity. We contradict our ideals. Maybe we could simply relax about our ideals, Universe has it all in hand.

    Anyway, thanks for posting, Dave.

  5. Mollie July 8, 2015 at 11:04 am - Reply

    I with you Damh, I strive for perfection knowing I will never achieve ‘it’. We each do what feels right for us.

  6. Chris July 8, 2015 at 11:06 am - Reply

    I don’t like the word perfection, I don’t think it exists and I don’t think nature is perfect or flawed, to me Nature just is. I try and be in balance and harmony with nature as much as I can, not easy when I drive a car, eat non organic food and live and consume in this horrible capitalist consumer society (only my opinion) with all the trappings it contains. While I agree that we are only human and are all flawed, if we don’t start changing the way we live, and eat we are pretty much doomed, I think it’s change or have change forced upon us. Sorry to bring a downer on your blog Damh, I hope it didn’t sound preachy, wasn’t meant to be.

  7. Stephen Barnes July 8, 2015 at 11:14 am - Reply

    If there was perfection we would not exist, the scientists tell us the Universe is asymmetrical. There is no perfect balance of physical forces throughout the universe. In the beginning it is thought that matter and antimatter (atomic particles with an opposite electrical charge and spin) existed in almost equal amounts. The key word is “almost”, for if the quantities truly had been equal, matter as we know it could not have formed and stay formed, as opposing particles would have annihilated each other leaving nothing but gamma rays. Enough matter remained (maybe only 1% of the original) to allow the physical universe to form. So we are all here within the universe, on our beautiful mother earth finding our way through the forest searching for perfection, we wont find it, but there is an abundance of wholeness to be found and this starts with acceptance. Acceptance of ourselves and others and that is what Nature for me teaches us.

    I know about paradox, I have been a Pagan/ Druid all my Life and I am a Police Officer. My colleagues say to me ‘ How can you be a Druid Tree Hugger ??? and this is easy to explain and they except it. But what is very hard is when the Pagan/community say to me, “You cannot be a Druid your a copper” and sometimes I feel like an outcast and greeted with scepticism. But this is Nature , we are not perfect in our thoughts and actions but wholeness comes from the acceptance and awareness that we are not perfect in the eyes of others. Nature also teaches us there is perfection in Truth.

  8. David Great Bear July 8, 2015 at 11:28 am - Reply

    I like to say that I am living in the paradox or living in the question. I am a Druid who is who is doing his part to help with the healing of the world. I am also a model train enthusiast! I was into railroads long before I was into Druidry! I know that railroads have been used as a tool of exploitation and I get a lot of pleasure from building the models and learning how trains work. I do my best to do all of this with awareness, I really don’t feel motivated if I am laying a guilt trip on myself! Blessings!

  9. Saraid July 8, 2015 at 11:28 am - Reply

    “Do you want to improve the world?
    I don’t think it can be done.

    The world is sacred.
    It can’t be improved.
    If you tamper with it, you’ll ruin it.
    If you treat it like an object, you’ll lose it.

    There is a time for being ahead,
    a time for being behind;
    a time for being in motion,
    a time for being at rest;
    a time for being vigorous,
    a time for being exhausted;
    a time for being safe,
    a time for being in danger.

    The Master sees things as they are,
    without trying to control them.
    She lets them go their own way,
    and resides at the center of the circle.”
    ― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

    In reality there is no perfecting to be done!
    I don’t think that the oldest teachings of most religions talk of “improving the self”, I think that is our culture of individualism that has chosen to see things in that light. The oldest teachings are about being in harmony (resonance as a opposed to dissonance) with what is and all that is IS so that includes Formula 1 and horror movies and mountains and forests!

    Personally the people I love the most are those that encompass what appears to be great divides in lives. There is so much to be lived, why live in limitation and conflict saying “only this little piece is OK, all the rest is wrong and doesn’t fit with this point of view I have here.”

    Live broadly 🙂

  10. Louise July 8, 2015 at 11:37 am - Reply

    YES! There is not a perfect human on this planet, just some who think they are more perfect. We’ve been taught to believe that we are failures if we aren’t perfect or striving for perfection which is sad because it makes it hard for us to love ourselves and that is much more important. Nature is a wonderful teacher and guide, and as for darkness and light – it’s the shadows that allow us to see the light more clearly. Thank you for this thoughtful post 🙂

  11. Garry Watts July 8, 2015 at 2:23 pm - Reply

    No living thing can live without leaving some form of imprint. I find it more offensive that someone felt high and mighty enough to judge your actions and motives. Do these people not fart thus contribute to the methane on the planet. Are they not carriers of virus’ and bacterium do to mixing with public. Its a case of working with what we’ve got and experiencing life manmade or not. The key words as always is choice and enjoyment(experience). Something may beautiful come out of it that would not have occurred had you not went. Yes we deem fracking as dangerous to planetary and human health, we can stop these vast destructive practices now. Changing the petroleum buisiness over night is not feasable, its going to take a lot of time as is factory farming yet we can only afford the cheap meat it offers. Doesnt stop us campaigning though for a better alternative. Vegetarians, your need for vegetables has impact on gm exploration as the demand is there. Do you stop eating vegetables? No, so the problem here is not so much the rights and wrongs of such practices but the wrongness of feeling high and mighty enough to impress your view and will on other people. Which in effect is bullying.

  12. History Anorak July 8, 2015 at 2:37 pm - Reply

    “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”
    Walt Whitman.

  13. Ed Bonthron July 8, 2015 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    Very well said, maybe even one of the best points you have raised. As a retired US Marine I have had to put up with a lot of crap over the years from both sides. In the eighties and nineties the Corps did not consider any form paganism appropriate religious fair. Those on the outside had a hard time believing that a Marine could be a pagan as well. People are like snow flakes no two are exactly a like and we all take a different path. The snow flake ends up on the ground the people in it. It is the journey that is important.

  14. Terri July 8, 2015 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    Dave,

    You are perfect! What is wrong is our definition of perfect.

    A dear freind of mine, a man that treated me like the daughter he never had, taught me a definition of perfect that changed how I looked at the world. He defined it as “suitable for the intended purpose.” An old moth eaten wool blanket can still keep you warm on a cold night so it is perfect in spite of the holes. If you miss a chord during a performance but your audience really enjoys the concert, it was perfect.

    Thank you for your music. I was introduced through Internet radio. It is part of the inspiration for me to take up an instrument again after a 30 year break.
    Thanks again,

    Terri

  15. Carrie Viscome Skinner July 8, 2015 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    Such a great subject and so many interesting comments. This is a part of being pagan that doesn’t get talked about much but in my opinion needs to be. So thank you, Damh, for bringing it up. This is exactly why I left christianity, that constant striving for perfection that can never be attained especially when no one could agree just what that perfection is exactly. I like one of the comments that stressed wholeness which is all I strive for now. What makes me feel whole will be different than what makes you feel whole but it’s all ok and it’s all a part of who we are as well as being pagan. It’s all a part of the human earthly experience and so fully satisfying if we allow ourselves to simply be who we are and let others do the same.

  16. A. Hanson July 8, 2015 at 5:34 pm - Reply

    Hi, It’s actually kind of strange as a friend and I were talking about this only a few days ago – in my book, which I won’t try to plug here :), the theme of knowing what the purpose is of a chosen Path (whatever it may be Xtian, Pagan etc.). comes up a number of times. I am just going to past a part of a dialogue from the book between an experienced Wiccan and a novice…..this extract was actually a recorded conversation I taped in the Carpathian Mountains a few years back. Sorry if it’s a bit long winded.

    Conversation 3
    Bea: I’ve been reading a book about Paganism……it was really very good. I think I learned something.
    Marus Pohansky: Aye, and what have you learned?
    Bea: I learned that modern Witchcraft has little or no connection to the past. That it’s all made up. I learned that modern Witchcraft in the West, Wicca, was invented in England a hundred years ago; that most, if not all, Pagan beliefs are just extensions of the whole fantasy ‘world’ created by the likes of Tolkien. Pretty similar really to the people you read about who think they’re Jedi’s or descended from Aliens. It’s all just made up.
    Marus Pohansky: And I reckon by the tone of your voice this is a disappointment.
    Bea: Well of course it bloody is! I thought I was learning from the traditions that stemmed back to the ancients. I thought I was rediscovering my lost heritage, that I was following in the footsteps of Merlin not acting out the fantasies of some old hippie with a beard, bad breath and a how-to guide to making mint tea. If I wanted to ‘pretend’ at Spirituality I would have moved to California!
    Marus Pohansky: And modern Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism is different how? The Buddhism of today is a far-cry from its original form 3000 years ago, Christianity would be unrecognisable to the Christ…they have all evolved and become modern, and most of the modernisers would have been beardy hippie types, that is the odd balls with bad breath and a vision.
    Bea: But they have provenance. They have written records, archives, histories which connect the modern believer to the original source. Pagans have nothing: a bit of archaeology, one or two written and incoherent records and that’s it.
    Marus Pohansky: What does the word Pagan actually mean?
    Bea: I’m not sure. I know it’s Latin.
    Marus Pohansky: That’s right. It is Latin and has no religious or spiritual meaning in itself. Paganus is the adjective form of Pagus meaning a place outside of the city, a rural area, farm country: uncivilised, wild and untamed. Nothing to do with religion at all really, but it does tell us something important about modern Pagans and the provenance we’ve got.
    Bea: And that is?
    Marus Pohansky: It tells us that our beliefs stem from wild, that they are not the beliefs of city intellectuals with their big books and fancy words. Paganism was born out of the beliefs of the little man, the villager who, with no education, had no way of recording what he thought of life. The Greeks with all of their reason and logic were the first to remove themselves from the ‘superstitions’ of Pagan belief. Later thinkers, closed behind city walls, and wrapped in stone cocoons then began to invent new explanations for the things around them. The Christians in Europe sat in Rome making up fantastic tales that placed Mankind at the centre of the world and at the right hand of God…..a Pagan farmer on the fringe of the Carpathian Mountains would never have been able to come up with such a ridiculous theory. He knew, struggling as he did with the vagaries of the land, that Nature/God held Man in no such prominence, he knew that people were levelled alongside the rest of creation. Only a fool lost in a Labyrinth of brick and stone could ever believe that Nature cares more for him than She does for the next creature.
    Bea: Okay, but that doesn’t provide modern Pagans with any greater insight. Very few of us today live a Pastoral life, most of us live in cities, most Pagan writers too probably. And without a written connection to the ancients we are just as far from the essence of ‘real’ Paganism as before, right? Modern Paganism is being made up by the very city intellectuals who you claim deserted it in the first place.
    Marus Pohansky: True.
    Bea: And….????
    Marus Pohansky: The ‘Real’ Paganism, the real Witchcraft you are talking about is not in books. If you remember I told you to burn the lot…you obviously didn’t and look at the result!
    Bea: If not in books then where? You tell me nothing except don’t read books, so where should I find the Old Truths…where?
    Marus Pohansky: Probably in the same place our ancestors looked 3000 years ago, probably by seeing the world as they saw it, hearing it as they heard it, breathing it as they breathed it, feeling it way they felt it. It’s there that I find the provenance of my Paganism.
    Bea: But how can I do that? How can I know what a Iron age farmer in the Carpathian Mountains saw, felt, smelt etc. if it’s not documented? How can I possibly experience what he experienced?
    Marus Pohansky: Because the world he knew is still there, nothing has changed, Bea. Cities have changed but Nature, she has remained constant; and people think they have changed/developed but they haven’t, not really. In a forest the smell of the wet earth after rain is the same now as it was when our farmer trod the land; the wind sounds the same as it ever has, the beauty of daisies on a hill side has not changed, the feel of the rough skin of an oak is just as coarse. Our ancestors experience is not so different from ours as we like to believe. Our strongest senses/feelings of love, hate, fear are the same: a mothers love is just as fierce, a fathers fear is just as profound, a lovers sadness just as tragic, they have not changed. And it is here the Pagan Heritage that you lament is to be found….much stronger than any written book, much more tangible than a lengthy, dry history, much more real than the fantasy of recorded religion because Paganism is a living thing, it’s encoded into us and into the Human experience.
    Bea: So you’re saying that modern Paganism’s connection to the ancients is constantly being replayed in us, in our own experience?
    Marus Pohansky: It is, because a man today is no different than a man 3000 years ago, Nature today is no different to Nature 3000 years ago…in fact all things of importance have remained the same. Only things in towns and cities change, only temporary and therefore unimportant things change. If you want to know what Merlin knew, felt, thought, how he saw the world all you need to do is go to the Wild as he did, sit beside an oak as he did, close your eyes as he did, and absorb Nature as he did. That is paganism’s provenance.

    recorded December – January 2012/13

  17. Lloyd Hargrove July 9, 2015 at 5:36 am - Reply

    Still “only” human? 😉 Do not the gods themselves aspire to be human?

  18. Michele July 9, 2015 at 3:16 pm - Reply

    Well said Damh

  19. Greybeard July 10, 2015 at 7:33 am - Reply

    Hi Damh, while I acknowledge the need for light and dark, that we are part of nature and that we must learn about ourselves, humans are still wreaking destruction on non-humans and we have a duty to reduce our impacts. So for me the missing point in your thoughts is leadership.

    As you are a leader who obviously cares about our non-human and human cousins, the Earth where our roots tread, the air that inspires us, the water that refreshes us and the fire that drives us, shouldn’t your piece be nuanced towards it being OK to enjoy F1 but we need to reduce our foot print (tread lightly) too?

    Life isn’t simply black and white, we don’t just have a choice between the extravagant western lifestyle of living in a cave, there are shades of grey on the continuum. Enjoy your F1, but take the train there, enjoy your meat but make sure it is organic and that the animal had a good life, and but most importantly as a leader please encourage others to tread just a little more lightly in their lives.

    Finally, Superbike is far better than F1…

    • Damh the Bard July 10, 2015 at 8:11 pm - Reply

      You’re absolutely right. I wanted my comments like ‘do our best’ to mean exactly that but I guess those words can sound glib and dismissive. They’re not meant to be, I meant them to be literal. This post isn’t a passport to not care. It’s an acknowledgment of the complexities of caring.

      I’ve never took much notice of superbikes. In our house the only sports that gets turned on are F1, international rugby, and Wimbledon.

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