There is an aphorism with roots in the crafting of Persian rugs: perfection belongs to God. The master-weaver, confident in his skill, will intentionally bobble a motif, insert a strand of the wrong shade, botch - slightly - the overall symmetry of a design. The idea is that to produce a piece of art capable of being described as “perfect” by the weaver constitutes usurpation, insult – an invocation of the wrath of the Almighty. Perfection is not the province of humanity. (As with many expressions of religious fervor, it’s a perfect blend of humility and hubris: after all, the master-weaver necessarily begins with the assumption he can, in fact, do it – make the perfect rug. He opts to swerve a bit, thought, for the sake of his immortal soul.)
Hubristic or not, I’ve always liked this approach. The ideal of perfection is often more than enough to keep me from doing anything remotely creative. The image in my head can never be perfectly translated in paint; the model in front of me is never perfectly realized on paper. God knows the point I want to make when I write often looks less than mind-bendingly profound when it hits the computer screen – why, for Christ’s sake, even bother?
Then there’s the matter of my own personal gods, and their damnable perfection. This is often a complicating factor for me. I don’t define myself creatively as a writer (half of you are now saying to yourselves, “No shit, Sherlock, get to the point”). I paint, I draw – and I am happiest in an art museum. I spend a lot of time looking at the beauty other artists create. And I’m here to tell you, perfection can be found outside of the weaving halls of Persia (probably inside them as well: I have no doubt thousands of weavers have tempted Allah’s anger, and produced the exquisite, unable to resist the lure of perfection. I’d like one of those rugs, please).
This, to me, is perfection:
John Singer Sargent, Albert De Belleroche.
Equipped with unlimited time and funds and privacy and inspiration and wine and cigarettes and great sex and good background music, still I could never approach this level of beauty in what I do, in what I make.
Nevertheless, because I’m human and there are things in my head that want to live in the world and dammit, it feels good, I periodically force the issue. I acknowledge I won’t, I can’t, achieve Sargent-like levels of anything. I put the ideal in a box and the box on a shelf. I get out my pencils. I stare down the blank newsprint. I draw something. I think of the Persian weaver, and I leave perfection to God.