Chat On Perfection In ‘Nocturnal Animals’

In ‘Nocturnal Animals’, Susan said, ‘I was so busy trying to be perfect and…’ Edward interrupts, ‘And you don’t feel that way?’ She replies, ‘No.’ He says, ‘That’s exactly what makes you so perfect.’ Of course, Edward was exaggerating that Susan was already perfect, although he meant it in the mundane sense. The rest of the film depicts her flaws ever more clearly, and she realises them too.

Should we be like Susan, busy trying to be perfect? Yes, but in the spiritual sense. As time goes by, the couple drifted apart when Edward realised that Susan was after worldly success as an artist, while he was after what is more akin to spiritual betterment as a writer. Of course, it makes sense to do well in both worldly and spiritual aspects of life. However, when pining too much for the first, it is often at the cost of missing the other.

Spiritually however, enlightened beings like Buddhas and great Bodhisattvas truly do not keep thinking that they are perfect, which DOES make them perfect. This is so as a key attribute of the fully liberated is that they are not attached to self and attainment. Susan was still very much self-conscious in an egoistic way, pining for perfection in the eyes of others. Of course, as a result, she did not feel perfect or happy! Her constant craving was what kept happiness of contentment at bay.

There is only one problem with over-seeking of worldly success… Even if attained, it does not last. It either fades away first or we pass away. It is spiritual betterment that persists, even beyond this life. Worldly well-being should thus be skilfully used as a means to facilitate spiritual betterment, since worldly well-being is not the actual end. So-called ‘balance’ is easier achieved than not, because we do not need material excesses to sufficiently support our quest for spiritual happiness.

Susan also asked Edward, ‘Why are you so driven to write?’ He replies, ‘It’s a way of keeping things alive. You know, saving things that will eventually die. And if I write it down, then it’ll last forever.’ That is an exaggeration (again) – because many a written word, being material, still gets lost, distorted or forgotten. But may the words in this review provide some lasting food for thought!

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