Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A flaw in the carpet . . .

I remember, when I was a child, being told a beautiful Islamic story. I loved it then and it has never ceased to please me.
May I share it with you?

The story goes that, woven into the fabric of every one of those magnificent, traditional Persian carpets, there is an intentional flaw.
Why? Because, so it is said, man cannot create perfection. Only Allah is perfect.

Isn't it a lovely story? It allows us the freedom to acknowledge our flaws and shortcomings, and to accept that perfection is the prerogative of the divine. True, we are a part of that divine substance, but we have, individually and as a species, accrued quite a few flaws - intentional and unintentional - along the way.

What reminded me of the Persian carpet? Well, a friend of mine is working on her first novel. She is enjoying herself enormously, but the further she progresses into her book, the more she
realises the need to adjust and improve the early chapters. When she wrote these early chapters she barely knew the characters she was creating, now that she has grown to know them she needs to go back and make adjustments.

I tease her that she'll never finish and, as a counter to perfectionism, tell her both the story of the Persian carpet and a recollection of my own.
If you're a perfectionist this could help you, too!

Several years ago, when I was a proof-reader for a publishing house, I was asked to proof-read a new edition of Shakespeare's 'Sonnets'. What made this new edition special was the fact that it was to be written in calligraphy. Not only that, The Royal Shakespeare Theatre had agreed to give it their endorsement. The skilled calligrapher chosen for this task was Fred Marns. Taking up his pen and ink, he set to with a will.

The first few sonnets penned by Fred were truly beautiful. However, the next few were even more exquisite. By the time he had reached Sonnet Fifteen such was the standard reached that Fred insisted he should go back and improve his early efforts. By the time he was halfway through the book the calligraphy, that had originally seemed incapable of improvement, had attained such a degree of artistry that, once again, he needed to return to and rewrite the earlier sonnets.

I began to grow a little worried, would he ever finish? There was a dead-line for publication day and it seemed as though Fred, through this estimable search for perfection, would never reach the end!
It was not so much, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" as "Shall I compare thee to the sonnet I wrote last week?"

Finally, Fred and I acknowledged that we had to do what every good Muslim has to do . . . to accept that only Allah is perfect!
Fred stopped re-writing . . . the book was published . . . and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre was delighted with this new edition. Only Fred and I knew that there some sonnets that were even more beautiful than the others!

There are flaws in this letter . . . flaws in the argument . . . possibly flaws in the grammar . . . but, there you are, it comes with my love, and only Allah is perfect!