Episode 093 - The Spirit Bead
The Thursday Thesis 5/4/2018
My friend Simon mentioned them in passing, and his words caught my ear.
“...and that’s The Spirit Bead” he said
“Oooh!” I responded – “I love that...The Spirit Bead...yes, very good. Beautiful.”
Leaping from the Middle East to the Prairies of North America with a single bound, Simon linked the parallel practices of Moslem rugmakers in Persia to the Nations of the Dakota Sioux, Blackfoot, and many more tribes of North America.
We had been talking about perfectionism’s long shadow, during an interview for my upcoming podcast, and Simon explained to me how traditional Persian rug-makers always include a tiny flaw in every rug: these deliberate errors are called “Persian Flaws”.
Their belief is that only Allah can create perfection, and that to create a flawless rug or carpet is an offence against Him.
Native American jewellery makers also included deliberate errors in their works, in honour of the Spirit World, and as an acceptance that man is imperfect.
You can still see the practice today, in the Heishii beadwork made by the Navajo and Kewa Pueblo people.
In both Moslem and Native American traditions, everything is made with an error included in it.
Since only Allah and the Great Spirit can create perfection, the deliberate inclusion of an error reminds us that everyone is imperfect and flawed in some way.
Call it a Spirit Bead or a Persian Flaw, the eye is drawn to the flaw.
Whilst the great majority of the rug, or necklace is perfect - but there’s just that one little thing that bugs us and fascinates us...
What’s your Persian Flaw, your Spirit Bead?
Who cares what we call it – it’s our Spirit Bead that we are best known for, isn’t it?
We most often remember the flawed and imperfect people because they are unusual, unexpected and strange enough to capture attention.
As a guitarist, I am drawn to the imperfections present in older recordings – before digital editing made it possible to edit such things out. That’s where the “soul” is in music. In the tiny hesitations and rushes that move the player outside of perfect timing there is the musical magic of what we call “swing”.
I truly believe that the dullness of playing dead on the beat is the origin of the modern slang “deadbeat”.
Spare me the pristine perfection of some modern music, please.
I remember when the Pure Trance music producer, Rich Mowatt - aka Solarstone - asked me to include additional pick and string noise in a guitar overdub/solo.
There’s a man who “gets it”!
My ears listen for the sonic Spirit Beads...
And, as I said, we seek out the Spirit Bead in the people we meet.
I’m not perfect, not by a long road, and I count my blessings that I am not. Perfect would be so dull!
Perfect means that there’ no room to improve, no cracks to fix and no leaks to plug.
Perfect means that we are irredeemably “done”.
Nothing left to learn or do: I’m done.
Can you imagine how depressing that would be?
How dull it would be to know everything, to be perfect at everything?
Where’s the growth?
Where’s the failure to rise up again from?
Where’s the falling-down and the bloody knee?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s this: enjoy being yourself and enjoy your imperfections, because if you were to subtract your imperfections there’d be sod-all left except for the amorphous grey eternity of perfection.
I’m thoroughly imperfect, and – damn it all – I’m proud of it.
So, to give The Finger to a world which worships perfection, I’d like to propose a toast to imperfection. Here’s to being gloriously glitch, fabulously flawed and delightfully defective; here’s to our Spirit Beads, our Persian Flaws, because they are all that stand between us and the eternal sterility of perfection.
Now go and be Gloriously Imperfect: go and show off your Spirit Bead.
© Neil Cowmeadow 2018
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I too really enjoyed our conversation Neil - I was reminded by your blog of a quote from Wavy Gravy, a clown activist who apparently was master of ceremonies at Woodstock. The quote reads: 'We are all bozos on the bus, so we might as well sit back and enjoy the ride.'
All the modern designs we see nowadays came from ethnic or native origins. Nothing in this world is original but if you want to see the evolution of fashion, you don't need to look far. Just observe how tribal communities dress themselves in special occasions and you will see where modern fashion regularly source their inspiration from. Men are not the usual bland people in identical coat and tie. Royalty is defined by colors and accessories. This is something you can only find in more culturally advanced societies.
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