Sunday, 14 October 2007
It's a strange notion, 'perfection', and doubly strange as an ideal ('be ye therefore perfect' and so on). If perfection is perceived as a negative ideal then such perfection becomes a sort of vacuum state (Northrop Frye: 'if this idea of "pure" perfection is pressed a little further it dissolves in negatives, as all abstract ideas do. God is infinite, inscrutable, incomprehensible, all negative words, and a negative communion with some undefined ineffability is its highest development'; [p.37]). Attempts to define perfection in positive terms (such that perfection implies being fully grown or mature) are similarly unconvincing. What's strange about positing perfection as an absolute is that it is a thoroughly dialectical piece of terminology: the perfection of my health is the imperfection of my disease; the perfection of my heart is the imperfection of my head and so on. We need to decode 'be ye therefore perfect' not as 'be ye complete', but be ye becoming--in fact, as be ye incomplete.