In Search of Perfection

September 25, 2015, Chennai

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'Murder in the Cathedral' by TS Eliot has several beautiful lines on different aspects of sainthood and destiny. I summarise one of them on saints from memory since I studied this 20 years ago as part of curriculum and am unable to get hold of the book to quote verbatim.


Saints are men who are condemned during their lifetime;  worshiped after their death; criticised after a few decades; and then completely forgotten.

During that time, for the first time (as I entered the wide world from the smaller one of school), I heard Mahatma Gandhi being criticised (by another lecturer) and these lines struck me as very apt. And I wondered about our deep desire to find perfection in human beings even when we know we are made of malleable clay, changing our shape and colour with the times. But somehow, rules seem to change when we examine others' actions and thoughts.

In recent times, there has been similar mudslinging on Mother Teresa and again the question arises - why?

The question to be asked is, why do we raise people on pedestals in the first place? Why do we need gods and saints, only to tear them to bits and throw them in the dustbin later?

Do we forget who we are, what we are capable of and how limited we are? Do we forget how under stress our own behaviour can change; with maturity, our thoughts ripen; with  circumstances, our emotions transform?

We seek heroes, and then we seek heroes who will be relevant at all times; if the contexts change, their greatness should somehow still be appropriate; but god forbid if they say or do something relevant to context but making them seem like turncoats!

A tall order indeed, but we go through this cycle again and again.

Though not a cricket fan, with so much being thrust on our faces thanks to the IPL scam - to me IPL itself seemed a scam - I see heroes (not saints by any stretch of imagination) again taking a beating - for not speaking, for not saying enough, for not saying the right things...

Why do we forget what and who made them heroes first?

This post is not in defence of those players. But I think, if we pause, we will know that the images of greatness are built in our mind - encouraged by the 'great' people themselves because they were at the right place at the right time saying and doing the right things. Let's leave them there, give them credit for what they did right, and be aware that they can be wrong.

The stress, in my humble opinion, should be on developing our own ability to judge and be detached so that their fall does not bring us tumbling down too. Inspiration and guidance can come from anywhere. Let's be grateful for that and take only the good.

And let's always remember, they are humans too.

                                                                                                                                   -Meera Srikant