The 2003 movie/docudrama, EDGE OF AMERICA, is based on the story of a black teacher who is hired to teach English at Three Nations High School in Utah. He’s never been on an Indian reservation, and to make ends meet he agrees to also coach the girls’ unsuccessful basketball team. He is the teacher and the coach, yet he’s the one learning many of the lessons.
One of the most important lessons is about making mistakes, and his biggest one is the demand for perfection. Based on his own experiences, he teaches the girls that out in the real world, their only chance is to first achieve perfection on the basketball court and defeat the prejudice of white players.
The tribal Wise Woman has been weaving rugs all of her life. She says that each is slightly different, leaving openings in the design for growth. This is seen as an imperfection by some, but she believes imperfections are actually spiritual outlets. “Imperfection is beauty,” she says, so in each rug she weaves a mistake…on purpose. Otherwise, “The spirit becomes trapped in perfection…”
EDGE OF AMERICA is an excellent movie; it is also a compelling clash of cultures, philosophies, beliefs and values. I dare say that many of us grew up adhering to the dictionary definition of mistakes: “actions or judgments that are misguided or wrong.” And even Einstein’s well-known comment–“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new”–implies that mistakes are necessary in learning, but not desirable for ongoing intentional spiritual outlets.
My mother’s first quilt was a series of bird patterns. It took her several years as a teen to create twenty blocks of different birds, each hand sewn with a series of basic and combination stitches. It was a training quilt, an introduction to perfecting stitches and developing discipline. When all the blocks were correct—with mistakes carefully taken out and re-stitched until the birds were perfect—then her mother and great aunt helped her piece together the blocks with pink and green accents and borders, and then quilt the design top to a solid pink fabric back.
Years ago I found the quilt neatly folded away among blankets in the closet. It was Mom’s only quilt; when it was finished, she was never interested in doing more than just assisting in others’ projects. It was later that I realized from her comments that the requirements for perfection had dulled her joy of creating. I think she would have agreed with the Wise Woman in EDGE OF AMERICA: “The spirit becomes trapped in perfection.”
I own one hand woven wall hanging. It’s called “Weaver’s Dream” and contains one “mistake.” I have no idea how the weaver accomplished it, but I was assured it was not added on, carefully bleached or altered to look different. It was woven into the pattern…intentionally. The vendor told me the “mistake” had made many buyers choose other wall hangings. I chose “Weaver’s Dream” because of it. It’s a matter of perspective, and although it may be a flaw in my character, perfection has never been my ultimate goal in anything.