The question came out of the blue from Jorge during a quiet spell last week. “I’m not asking this as a mere conversation starter: If you could choose the perfect life, would you choose the life you have now?”
That’s one of the things I like about my friend, he puts me on the spot in intriguing ways. When Jorge asks such a question, he wants to engage in authentic, constructive dialogue, not airy fairy daydream stuff.
I looked at my pal and confessed that I might not choose the life I have now, but that it might be similar to it. That’s because perfection is a subjective, mercurial concept. Perfection is a concept like the Judeo-Christian idea of Heaven.
I went on and mentioned that I’ve thought about perfection in life since I was a Boy Scout. I asked Jorge if he thought about such things when he was a teen?
He admitted that he did. Maybe most people go through a phase like that in the process of getting a focus on their lives and what they want to become in the future as adults. Then my friend reminded me to answer his original question.
“The thing is”, I replied, “that my idea of a perfect life pretty much came into focus when I was a Boy Scout. I remember a night when everyone else was probably asleep in their tents except me. My idea at the time was something like going out on expeditions in the wilderness. I’d meet scientists and learn about geology, biology, and astronomy. Then I’d go about and try to understand the things I had been shown. I still want that life.”
Jorge said he didn’t have such dreams as a kid. He had gotten caught up in neighborhood intrigue and survival in Los Angeles. Jorge said real life questions only started bubbling to the surface after he was introduced to the wilds of Colorado during a vacation trip. He was able to see the world from a different perspective after then.
When he lived in L.A. Jorge was wrapped up in the world of pop culture, consumerism, and advertising. “I went through a lot of disillusionment because I was told to chase after the perfect life that was dangled in front of me every day, but I had no means to get any of it. When I visited the Colorado mountains I realized how fake my dreams had been. I had been aiming to live in a Disneyland world, until I finally learned that the search for happiness is the wrong approach.”
I asked, “So you found out that going after happiness alone is to live according to the carrot and stick approach. Happiness is what we’re told we want, when what our hearts really want is peacefulness.”
“Yeah, it was a matter of separating substance from form. I had been literally living in La La land, then I found out La La Land is nothing close to perfection. I started to relax and not get hung up on living in an egotistical dream world.”
I asked how long the process took. Jorge laughed and said, “It’s still a work in progress. How about you?”
“Well, I understood the egotism question early on. I had to confront it because I encountered egotism in others and myself as a broadcaster. Living much of my life in a radio studio was an incubator for it. The secret is to be aware of the egotism, then it can be reined in, if you wish. So, egotism was not my primary driver. I realized that a happy life is more than what goes on in my little world, because people really don’t care about my little world. Everyone is wrapped up in their own little worlds.”
“I got a grasp on it by living and working in an industry that is powered and driven by egotism. Everyone, including me, was in it just for themselves, and their own glory. Within the first year or two, I understood this, and was able to dial it back by focusing on other aspects of life, not just career.”
“What do you mean by ‘other aspects of life’?”
“Stuff that came up because of a strong urge of curiosity in general. I knew that curiosity didn’t kill the cat, it was the cat’s lack of curiosity that did him in. Curiosity has long been the driver of my life.”
Jorge said we have curiosity in common. “Curiosity is the glue that holds our friendship together. Both of us had to learn to take honest looks at ourselves and our limitations. Then we learned that it is important to express our true selves–our real, nitty gritty selves, not what we think other people expect us to be.”
“So, to answer your original question, Jorge, ‘If I could choose the perfect life, would I choose the life I have?’ I stick with my original answer. I think I’d choose a similar life, but not the one I have now, because I still need a lot of work, and perfection is something unattainable.”
Jorge grinned, “Yes, perfection is Heaven. I know I wouldn’t like Heaven because the perfection of Heaven would become boring after an hour or two. Imperfection is much more interesting and satisfying. I would not want a perfect life.”
I looked at my nearly empty mug of coffee. “It looks like we have imperfect coffee mugs, would you like for me to warm yours up?” Then we adjourned to the kitchen.