I’ve been spending time trying to finish an old screenplay, and in so doing I’ve read through a book by Brian Murphy called The Root of Wild Madder. It chronicles the journalist’s dive into the world of Persian carpets, his passion leading him into a world in which he soon feels out of his depth, and his search for a “lodestone,” a kind of North Star by which to navigate his passion for learning more about this mysterious art. It’s a fascinating read and really has a lot to say about a lot of things, and a lot of what it says about the fine art of Persian carpet weaving works well as broad observation of art at large.
There’s a lot of talk in the book about contradictions, unsolvable mysteries, nebulous mystique – things the author tries repeatedly to pin down and distill into simple, digestible terms, and which his Persian hosts and guides remark are beautiful just for their inherent mystery, and need not be nailed down in more approachable epithets. In fact, many can’t – take, for example, that the majority of carpets have no signatures or known origins, differentiating them from most or all other art styles, and origins can only be guessed at based on the style of the piece. The author asks a member of a large carpet trading family, “Doesn’t that frustrate you?” to which the man replies, “Why do you keep coming back to this idea? No. On the contrary, it’s the thing that makes carpets fascinating.”
Anyway, this has all been to introduce a quote I really liked about remaining with open heart and mind and being receptive to all possibilities around you. The quote comes from a carpet vendor featured in the book named Hossein, who owns a large shop in Isfahan and is the source of many amazing insights. Hossein and the author had been discussing how traditions had been dying and globalization and the internet were sweeping the world. Was modernization always a bad thing? Of course not. “Sitting in the dark because you don’t have electricity isn’t so good.” But he goes on to say:
“What I’m afraid of is that we lose the sense that the world is a big, mysterious place where all kinds of things are possible. Being modern is one thing. But I hope this doesn’t mean losing wonder and awe and a sense that God is watching us. If that happens, my friend, these kinds of carpets will be no more. They come from that type of imagination. What I’m trying to say is that good carpets – or any art, I think – come from people who ask questions about life and try to see things that aren’t there. People who think they know all the answers and just create things to sell are making nothing but junk.”