4 - Handmade Perfection
An Offering of Leaves
Foreword by David Life
An invocation from the Isha Upanishad
Purna is full, whole, intact, complete, perfect, golden, fat with goodness, fat with joy, robust. No matter what you give, what you're left with is full, and what you give is full. It is perfect, it is whole, it is complete, it is fat.
During the Depression, there were a group of women who made quilts, called Gee's Bend. They were part of a black community in Alabama who wanted to keep their children warm and well fed, so they made and sold quilts. They were very poor, so they used inexpensive materials. Then, a few years back, these quilts were displayed in a museum. There was a movie that went along with the exhibit, and some of the women who had made these quilts were interviewed. They were in their eighties at that point in time.
In the movie, one woman explained that the quilts were made by sewing squares together. One time, she needed twelve squares for a quilt. She sewed eleven and then, when she had one more to sew, she realized she didn't have enough fabric. She had little money and couldn't just go and buy more. She wondered, "How will I finish my quilt?" Then she found an old pair of trousers that her children had outgrown, and cut them so they were flat, and made the final square out of them.
When you look at these quilts, you would never think that because one square is different from the rest, these quilts aren't perfect. They're complete. Nothing is missing. They're stunning. All the hardship, resourcefulness, and love that is in these women is woven into these quilts. They're handmade. They reflect depth of character and depth of life.
I think sometimes we have a conditioned idea of what perfect is. Perfect would be like every square being the same, or having exactly the right amount of fabric. But in this case, the perfection of these quilts, just like our perfection, is large enough to contain imperfections, irregularity, or surprise. It's not that the women thought beforehand, "I'll make eleven squares one way and then I'll make the twelfth out of my child's trousers."
It's inspiration that makes the quilt perfect, not the pattern or the fabric. Making mistakes is a part of life. It keeps us humble and resourceful, and therein lies our perfection—just like the quilts.
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