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The Wrong Tapestry Effect

Here's an allegory of unknown origins that historians suspect was written in the 8th century BCE:*

"Anatolia was a master weaver. She could weave anything–socks, mittens, other clothing items–you know, the sorts of things that one can weave. She was even a skilled weaver of tapestries, vast pieces of art that filled entire rooms. Naturally, tapestries were the biggest-ticket item available, and they took weeks or even months to complete.

"Weaving," by Diego Rivera, repurposed for this story.

Meanwhile, the king of Anatolia's kingdom was getting older, and his health was deteriorating. So naturally he wanted a very special tapestry woven. His son, the prince, was coming of age, and when he turned 18, the king wanted to resign the throne and make his son the king. So the king went to Anatolia and asked for a tapestry commemorating the prince. He told her that she could do it however she wanted, as long as it looked nice and honored the prince. The king had commissioned several tapestries from Anatolia before and was confident she would do a good job.

'Yes, Your Majesty! I will take the offer,' said Anatolia. The king replied with a friendly smile.

Anatolia was humbled by this assignment, as always. She was commissioned a tapestry by the king! So she wanted to do a flawless job. She researched the prince's life, talking to many important people in his life, and skulking around trying to get a good look at his face so she could plan a tapestry featuring in it. She planned to center her tapestry around the prince's face, and adorn it with the various passions in the prince's life. Importantly, the prince would be crowned in the tapestry, to symbolize (very clearly) his new position.

Many weeks passed, and Anatolia labored tirelessly on her tapestry, often at the expense of food and sleep. The day before the coronation, the king came to check on her progress. She still wasn't ready. Even though the king wanted an advance look, she refused. Anatolia wanted to make her tapestry absolutely perfect for the ceremony.

Anatolia wanted to make her tapestry absolutely perfect for the ceremony.

On coronation day, the king was excited to see the tapestry. He had told his son, the prince, that he was planning a party for his eighteenth birthday, but the prince didn't know about the coronation or the tapestry. The king had his servants go to Anatolia's residence to collect the tapestry, and, after making a final adjustment, she relented.

In the middle of the festivities, the tapestry was ready to be unveiled. Anatolia watched the king's face as he got his first look at the tapestry. She was confident that he would be astounded.

Yet the king looked crestfallen. Anatolia's heart skipped a beat. Was there something wrong with the picture?

'Um, Anatolia,' said the king. 'There are two princes. I have two sons. You've woven the wrong prince. It's the wrong tapestry.'

Anatolia, as you can imagine, was beyond gloomy for weaving the wrong prince into the tapestry. It was such a ridiculous mistake, so easy to overcome, and gosh! How could she have done it! The king had trusted her with a very important duty! In fact, she was so irked by the outcome that she felt she could never weave a tapestry again. Instead, she would focus on other items, like clothing. For the rest of her life, the wrong tapestry incident would continue to haunt her."

"You've woven the wrong prince. It's the wrong tapestry."

Welcome Welcome Welcome

Happy Tuesday, and welcome to Chromatic Conflux! Here's a real blog post for a change. It's about the Wrong Tapestry Effect, a dispiriting phenomenon that causes people to be less creative. The Wrong Tapestry Effect comes about after someone (in the story, Anatolia) has worked very hard on something only to see it criticized for a huge, structural problem. Let's hope the post doesn't have a giant structural flaw, shall we?

Ten Letters

This effect has had a sizable prevalence in my life, this blog included. For instance, take my early post "Ten Letters," from March 2019. The gimmick was that every sentence was meta, for instance, that it referred to itself or something it was a part of in some way. It took a lot of hard work and messing around to make, and I was very proud of it when I wrote it. But then it confused people and generally had, if any impact, a negative one.**

It's easy to give up on a project after massive failure. That's been rehashed a lot in the common lexicon. It's an issue about the human spirit. So often, especially in these trying times, we make something beautiful, and then grow dispirited as no one else seems interested in it. Let me illustrate why that's wrong.


Traditionally, mandalas are intricate sand patterns created by Buddhist monks. Intricate is probably an understatement. Mandalas are extraordinarily laborious, requiring weeks to construct, each grain of sand being painstakingly dropped into its particular place. Once a mandala is completed, it is a work of art to behold. And then the mandala is destroyed.

The archetypical mandala. Source: Wikipedia.

Now, according to this Huffington Post article I found, this destruction comes about "because the underlying message of the mandala ceremony is that nothing is permanent. Nothing. All things are in flux, it says, beautiful but ephemeral, moving but temporary, a plateau but not a summit. All things are called to balance and enlightenment and the fulfillment of the Divine image in them, yes, but in flux. Always in flux."

I think there's another reason behind this. That's because the point of the mandala isn't the end product. It's the process. The process, not the end product, in fact, is the epitome of creativity, the part that truly makes us happy in the long term.

I've done this so much, haven't I, abandoned things because they didn't turn out right the first time. It's hard to change a permanent habit, but my goal is to focus more on the process of creative endeavors, and not become dispirited if it doesn't work out.


Anatolia is a fictional character who I made up. So I can do this as a sweet coda to this post:

"One Tuesday morning, years after the events of the wrong tapestry, Anatolia read this blog post about her story. She was a bit surprised and disturbed by how I was spying on her, but she decided to compartmentalize that for the time being. In any case, she was so inspired by it that she wove another tapestry.

The tapestry was riddled with errors. Anatolia was out of practice. But she realized that that was the entire point. Making mistakes isn't what ruins things, and it shouldn't perturb us. It certainly didn't affect Anatolia. Because she literally smiled from ear to ear."***


*Kidding, I just made it up. You can tell by the conversational tone and the fact that it takes place in a hodgepodge of ancient stereotypes.

**It turns out that the meta is difficult to comprehend from the outside. Take James Veitch, a very funny YouTuber known for replying to spam messages. He created a series called SuperHyperLiteral that's wrapped in unfathomable layers of meta. I don't want to dis it–it's a beautiful work of art; I can imagine being proud to have created something like it. It's also totally incomprehensible. That's the problem with meta.

James Veitch. Source: YouTube.

***I'm using Meaning #2.


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