Striving for Perfection in an Imperfect World

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Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Birthmark" continues to reflect a reality of science today that believes all things can be improved. Like Aylmer looking at his wife Georgiana and seeing only her birthmark as a flaw to be fixed, scientists today look at nature and humanity and see not beauty or symmetry, but imperfections. We do not like to see blight on our plants, birth defects in our children, the ravages of disease, or the effects of natural disasters. Indeed a scientist's first impulse is to do something about them, to find a cure.

Humans go to extreme measures to become "perfect", we burn ourselves with lasers, cut ourselves with scalpels, and inject ourselves with poison in an effort to become flawless. Aylmer, like scientists today, does not see nature as an incredible wonder at which to appreciate, but as a complex code waiting to be cracked, simplified, and solved.

Aylmer is obsessed with Georgiana's birthmark and he is unable to view the "crimson hand" as something divine as Georgiana does, but instead it is a flaw that mocks his limits as a scientist, if he were truly a great scientist he would be able to make her flawless. And if she were flawless, if he could fix her birthmark today, her wrinkles that would appear tomorrow, the effects of gravity she will develop twenty years from now, in fact she technically need never die. However, after several attempts to "cure" Georgiana of her unsightly disfigurement all becomes clear for Aylmer when he sees in her death that it is Georgiana herself that is the imperfection.

As human beings we are all flawed; it is as much a part of our nature as beauty is. Certainly Aylmer does not consciously recognize that the inevitable cost of eradicating the flaw would be to eradicate Georgiana, but nonetheless the birthmark symbolizes her very human life.

The tragedy of reading this story and living in today's society is that, were Georgiana alive now, Aylmer would only need take her to the nearest plastic surgeon and her "flaw" would be gone with in a matter of hours and a few days of healing, in fact while they are there Aylmer could have her bust size increased, her nose narrowed, her face lifted, and her ass shrunken. It's the ideal one-stop shopping.

In the time of extreme makeovers and science making advances everyday to improve our natural imperfections, society seems destined to fulfill Hitler's dream of a blond haired, blue eyed world, and yet we run the risk of repeating Aylmer's mistake and destroying that which we are trying to improve, humanity.

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MLA Citation:
"Striving for Perfection in an Imperfect World." 21 Jun 2018
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Yes we are all flawed, and yes there are quick fixes, but when will science stand up and confirm that the cliché "beauty is only skin deep" is a load of bullocks? Humanities true flaw is not something superficial like a birthmark or the inability to cure all things, but instead the drive to do so and not embrace the flaws as beauty. We are taught at a young age to celebrate diversity, and yet we live life seeking to conform to superficial standards. By the time science figures out how to genetically engineer a perfect human, who will be left? We have found scientific ways to destroy all life by the dropping of weapons, and yet we continue to search for cures of cancer. It is not nature that will destroy humanity, but humanity that will destroy its self. It is not our natural flaws or diseases we should be seeking to cure, but our obsession to overextend our reach of the natural realm.

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