A story from Iran: When a certain Muslim had been swindled by a Jew in business, the angered party went to the regional governor and prevailed upon him to issue an official edict requiring the conversion of every Jew by a certain date, upon pain of death.
As the deadline approached, the Jewish community was paralyzed with fear. With two weeks left, the various elders finally buried their long-standing differences and held a solemn conference at the house of the chief rabbi. After much thought, they agreed to send a delegation to the governor, but had no idea how to persuade him to change his mind. The rabbi’s wife said, “Leave it to me and my sisters.”
When the time came, the Rabbi’s wife presented the delegation with two enormous silk rugs, woven by the women in the province. She gave them specific instructions on what to do when they faced the governor.
A few days later the delegation stood trembling before the Governor. “There is nothing that will make me change my mind, but since you are here, what have you to say?”
“We have brought you a gift, as a token of our gratitude for these many long years during which we have been privileged to live quietly and obediently under your powerful protection.” The governor liked gifts. The elders had both of the carpets brought in and unfurled at the ruler’s feet. “On behalf of the Jewish community of this province, we place these two humble offerings before His Excellency, and request that He choose one of them as our tribute.”
Both carpets were broad, plush, tightly woven, and made out of the most exquisite material. The first one was covered with colorful curving calyxes and designs of gold and green and turquoise, intricately intertwined with whirling waves of purple petunias which spiraled ceaselessly and centripetally towards the median. The second carpet was red. That’s all it was. The whole rug was just one sprawling, solid red mat, from warp to woof, from end to end. “I should have you all decapitated for such insolence!” said the Governor. “Do you take me for a fool? Who in his right mind would not choose the first carpet—and who in full possession of his faculties would choose the second?”
The most senior member of the Jewish delegation stepped forward from amongst his peers and looked the governor straight in the eye. “The silk rugs are the territories under your benevolent sway. Today that province is filled with peoples of every imaginable culture and creed and in this way, it resembles the first carpet. Would Your Excellency, then, exchange the first carpet for the second?”
Which rug, which neighborhood, which country, which world do you want? At times, even I long for the ease of a plain rug. It’s just easier to figure out how to make it work in my home. But the monochromatic rug doesn’t dance in the light or offer my mind the possibility of seeing how green and blue do go together, especially when I’ve convinced myself that they don’t. However, uniformity is not a worthy aspiration of an enlightened soul because it doesn’t accept the truth that the world by its nature, is and will be, full of dazzling diversity. True peace and well-being will come when we can find a way to weave every difference into the whole so it finds its unique light.
May , 2019