Intentional flaw–Ancient wisdom about OCD

My dad’s first sheepkin was a diploma for earning a degree in agriculture. He was still single when he graduated. It was the Depression. Jobs were scarce but an opportunity in his field opened up. Dad rode a train from his hometown to go live in a tent on the desert. True, it was austere but, by aesthetic providence, his exposure to the elements coincided with a sophisticated movement among 20th century artists.
I don’t remember him mentioning the work of Georgia O’Keeffe but, like her, Dad developed an appreciation for Native American arts and crafts. While in New Mexico, he had the good sense to buy–at great Depression prices–three Navajo wool rugs (and a basket or two) which he and my mother made part of their home furnishing the first 20 years of marriage.
I came along halfway through that period. Consummate conversation pieces, the Navajo rugs introduced Dad’s experience on the reservation, admiration of the rugs as art, speculation about what the designs represented. Mother told me that she had to break my father’s habit of showing company there was no difference between the front and back of a Navajo rug–since the act of flipping it over or waving it in the air created a display of dust, reflecting badly on the lady of the house. Still repeated in my day, however, Mother would regularly point guests to a line of contrasting yarn woven into a corner of each rug and extending to its edge. She called the feature “the intentional flaw” with purpose to “let out the evil spirits.”

I admit this concept seemed to have little relevance in my culture–although the rugs continued to be valued.

Fifteen years ago as staff in an art gallery, I worked with a painter whose focus was Navajo art and philosophy. One day I thought to ask her if my mother was right about the “flaw.” This woman’s understanding was that Navajos long ago observed human nature to include excessive focus on works of the hands. The remedy: an artisan nearing completion of a rug or basket weaves the extra line deliberately for the benefit of his or her own spirit. It is a physical symbol and conscious act of freeing the spirit of the maker.

Now THIS has relevance. I have melded the concepts–what I grew up with and what my new friend explained–and am evolving my own way to view my flaws. A bonus came by observing a difference between my son and me: “How is it you don’t beat yourself up when you make a mistake?” I asked one night as he sat on my couch. He told me what he had learned from studying art all through junior high and high school: “The first two years I was always erasing. Then I realized what I thought were my mistakes sometimes turned out to be some of my best ideas.”

Obsessiveness about being perfect–or not having any flaws–is its own evil. It keeps me from moving. I paralyze myself, prevent the next mistake which just might be the best act or move or stroke or choice ever! If I make a “mistake,” I have decided to say to myself, “My intention is to use that flaw as a line for moving beyond the boundaries of this project, for freeing my spirit.”

Take my advice. Commit to a color, put something in place, draw a bold stroke, cut to length. Then move on. Avoid premature assumptions about spoiling the project. If it isn’t working out the way you thought it would, it just means you aren’t done yet. It might just turn out better than you could have imagined!

Find what’s yours . . . truly! danscir52

copyright 2013 Dan Christensen all rights reserved


About danscir52

Create! Join in the passion of found art and eclecticism. See the potential in free stuff, thrift store finds, spoils from family treasure and your own evolution. Self-style, design your environment as you reuse, recombine, refurbish, reinvent. Here's a key to sources I might mention: gift from Heaven=the item presents itself when you know to ask for it or when the universe clearing house knows you are about to need it (everything below is a subset of the above); dumpster or curbside=somewhat informal community exchange; DI=Deseret Industries, a church-run, all-items-donated thrift store and sheltered workshop; NPS=National Product Sales aka Market Square, a store whose merchandise comes from trucking and other companies dealing in odd lots and undeliverables; ReStore (Habitat for Humanity)=a thrift store offering donated salvaged and unused materials from remodelings or new construction projects; all the other thrift, discount, and consignment shops waiting for you to find what's yours--and add the love!

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