Per-fect: [adj., n. pur-fikt; v. per-fekt]: Flawless, faultless, complete, excellent, blameless, exact, pure, without deviation, undefiled, conforming absolutely to an ideal.
Plain Talk: Unspoken ideas of a perfect world affect everything in our lives, including ideas of health. Where we get mixed up is in thinking that health is the ultimate perfection that we should aim for.
Ah, perfection…have you thought about how the concept of perfection is the standard for life? What do we think about as the measuring stick for choices? Studies of consumer behavior point indirectly to this idea of perfection. We shop, we look, we analyze, and we try to find what will most satisfy us with regard to beauty, quality, and utility. There is a quiet undercurrent in our thinking and living that houses the notion that there is a perfection to everything. It usually plays out like this:
The shop-a-holic: “It’s not perfect, but it was on sale.”
The ecstatic shop-a-holic: “It’s so perfect for the party!”
The excuse-maker: “I’m not perfect. No one is.”
To my OCD friend: “Hurry up! It doesn’t have to be perfect.”
The sufferer: “Someday there will be no more tears or pain.”
The lover: “I love you.”
The courtroom: “Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”
The gift: “It’s the perfect gift for her.”
The teenager: “It’s the bomb!”
Mathematician: “I have the answer.”
The prayerful: “Forgive my sin.”
More often, awareness of perfection manifests as “should” and “ought”. The way life should be, and the way others should treat us. Though we make allowances for ourselves and others because we know perfection is not possible in this life, we still hold it as the benchmark by which we compare everything else.
Just as in our moral lives, the concept of perfection drives ideas of health. And steering ideas in health is a combination of what abilities the research world has at hand to develop health into a more perfect state. All you need to do is peruse the health headlines in popular media. Researchers continue to map the human genome to find secrets in the DNA that we can tinker with to prolong life, annihilate disease, and improve the quality of living. We want to cure cancer, live longer, destroy depression once and for all, combat obesity, and have perfect children.
The perfection quest is, after all, what backgrounds the widely-used term, “health-related quality of life”. Quality of life is an alias for our pursuit of perfection. Unfortunately, it ends in a relativized version of perfection, because of other factors in our lives that hinder perfection…hindrances like genetics, lifestyle choices, income, and the nature of our relationships with friends and family. Quality of life, in its perfected form, would be described as peace and purpose. A health-related quality of life, therefore, is based on an abstract perception of perfect health.
Where I take issue with the idea of health-related quality of life is that happiness, peace, and purpose are equated to health. Just look at the TV commercials for health products that promise vibrancy, bounce, energy, longevity, sexual ecstasy, and love! Health is big business, and money is pouring in for these promises of the intangible positives that health seems to promise but can’t deliver.
Questions for you:
1. How is that we have this innate idea of perfection? How is it that we are able to perceive the idea of perfect health, perfect life, perfect love, perfect family, perfect self, perfect peace, and perfect truth?
2. How does health-related quality of life affect personal peace and sense of life purpose? Is it possible to have a poor health-related quality of life yet still experience personal peace and life purpose? If so, how? If not, why not?