By S M Chen, posted July 14, 2016 by D Kovacs

“…seek, and ye shall find…” – Matthew 7:7

Perfection is difficult to achieve.  Rarely attained by humans (e.g. a hole in one in golf, a score of 300 in bowling, 10 in gymnastics or 1600 on the SAT; painting, writing or composing a masterpiece), those occasions are noteworthy for their infrequence.  Most of us can only acknowledge our limitations when confronted with genius that has been gifted certain of our members, whether it be in athletics, science, the arts, or the like.

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I lived for a time in a near-Middle Eastern country where the dominant religion (over 99%) is Islam.  Of its various commercial exports, one of the finer was carpet.  Unlike the frequent floral designs of Persian carpets, which generally possessed an even tighter weave pattern, those from this country were usually geometric.  Some of the best carpet weavers were Turkomen women, who spent their best years painstakingly tying knots in cross-hatched warp and woof of up to several hundred per square inch, employing naturally dyed wool and, on occasion, camel hair.

Rug merchants had discovered that at least some buyers preferred older carpets (perhaps a mentality similar to that of certain purchasers of antiques), so one would see carpets on the floor and, rather astonishingly, even in the streets (where vehicles could and would run over them), the quicker to age them and potentially enhance their perceived value/price.

Each carpet, in its making, contained a deliberate flaw or flaws not necessarily easily discernible, consistent with the virtually universal belief that only Allah is perfect (a belief also held by the two other monotheistic Abrahamic religions, Christianity and Judaism).

Here is an example (carpet size 80 x 100 cm):

Chen, carpet

Photo by S M Chen

 

This particular design/pattern is called Bukhara and incorporates the ‘gul’ (for ‘rose’ or, perhaps more broadly, ‘flower’).  At first glance, the carpet is a work of wonder – and it is that.  The rich red color, derived from pomegranate juice, has persisted for decades (the carpet dates to at least the 1960s) and faded only slightly with the passage of time.

This size is ideal for praying.  Men would often carry their carpets aboard buses, a common method of transport.  Five times a day they would stop what they were doing and, facing Mecca (in which lies Kabah, the holy mosque), do obeisance.  The carpet came in handy, for prayers involve contact of various parts of the body with the ground or floor.

If one looks closely at the above carpet, there are flaws.  I will point out a couple that I admit took some searching to find.  I have owned this piece since the late 1970s, and only recently discovered the imperfections, although I did not seek with alacrity until now.

The top row of 4 white diamonds is unevenly spaced.  Counting from the left, diamonds 1 and 2 are closer together than are diamonds 2-4.  If one views the similar row of 4 white diamonds near the bottom, one can see that they are more evenly spaced.  However, even this row is slightly asymmetric with regard to the carpet itself.  Most easily detectable is the fact that this row is positioned slightly to the left (for reference, see horizontal band, one side of a rectangle, just above the row).

A 2nd row of 3 white diamonds (below the 1st row at the top) is minimally asymmetric, whereas the comparable row at the bottom is more skewed toward the carpet’s left.

Rather than detracting from the appeal of the carpet – simultaneously utilitarian and a thing of beauty – the intentional flaws, to me, lend a certain charm.

They constitute an acknowledgement of a Higher Power and reassurance that this small carpet was indeed made by hand, not by machine.

Time, that great equalizer, is worth something, whether it be large or small.  I know it took countless hours to produce this; the weaver(s) likely made only pennies a day.

The fact that something this wondrous was almost certainly made by a shy, likely otherwise unskilled, comparatively uneducated person (or persons) living in simplicity and poverty in a third world country is a miracle.  Perhaps not large, as miracles go, but a miracle nonetheless.

If one looks for miracles, one will find them.  Sometimes, like the imperfections in this carpet, they are hidden and discoverable only by those who seek with diligence and perspicacity.


Sam Chen biopic

S M Chen lives and writes in California.