In a Navajo rug there is always one clear imperfection woven into the pattern. And interestingly enough, this is precisely where the Spirit moves in and out of the rug! – Richard Rohr
Known as the “spirit string,” this imperfection is an integral part of the traditional Navajo rug weaver’s art. You see, they believe that during the rug making process – a particularly time-consuming and creatively rigorous one – part of their spirit or soul gets woven in. So, in order to find its way out again, they purposely leave a small piece of yarn sticking out slightly from the surface of the rug. In this way, the soul/spirit can follow this piece of yarn from deep inside the design right to the exit.
Interestingly, it appears that this is not only the practice with rug-making, but also with other pieces of Navajo handiwork. One site explains it like this: “the Navajo believe that only God is perfect and that what humans do cannot be on the same perfect level. Therefore, they will make sure some little imperfection is part of anything they create. Usually, one has to look very close to find the imperfection, so it does not detract from the beauty of the item. On a Navajo rug, it’s the loose piece of yarn. On beaded handiwork, one of the beads might be threaded differently”
And, guess what, this is not only a Navajo tradition, but also common in Islamic art, Persian rugs, Greek sculptures, Amish quilts, Turkish ships, Orthodox Jewish houses and Japanese Zen ceramics.
So, perhaps it’s time we let go of our obsession with perfection, or what?