Saturday, 6 November 2021

Image borrowed from


We often hear that the devil is in the details. While that may be true in contract law (haha), it isn’t true with regard to the purpose and necessity of details. Even simple things in nature or in human design are complicated in detail. For example, dissertations have been written about so many things we take for granted. There are amazing details of the general phenomenon of sorption and its varieties, absorption, adsorption, and ion exchange. All we know is that a paper towel absorbs well or it doesn’t. The details explain why one towel is better than another. The details of nature are equally brain-boggling yet most of us settle for less detail and opt to react to it with lazy descriptive words such as beautiful, or awesome. Remember the inquisitive child’s question, “What makes the sky blue?” We are naturally disposed to detail, but just as naturally dismiss it.

The photo above shows a beautifully designed building. One can marvel at the gathered forces, which ultimately manifested themselves in this façade and we say, ‘cool.’ To look at the pages of architectural drawings will boggle the layman’s mind, but entice the trained architect to analyze the details and appreciate the quality of the design details with all its nuts and bolts.

As a priest, I have been part of three major architectural ventures. During my first parish assignment was built a new parish church. In another parish, I worked with an architect to completely renovate a rectory and during one of my last assignments, I was part of the construction of a small mission parish church. In all three cases, I was always amazed by the details that went into the final product. Professionals who were trained in various parts of construction knew the details well when they looked at architectural plans. In the end, something came together. I truly appreciated the details that went into floorplans, electrical installations, water pipes, etc.

Details have everything to do with appreciation for design whether it be natural or manmade. I was visiting a Scottsdale museum with my sister and brother-in-law. Lots of artifacts were under or behind plexiglass shields or cases. My brother-in-law had earlier introdcuced me to an interesting term, ‘museum quality.’ This quality indicates a well-made plexiglass case in which edges were joined in crisp and perfect clarity. This is a detail I would not have been aware of, but now I am keen to make judgments about the quality of display cases. Not that I am an expert in such design, but now I at least know which required details of design make the difference between museum quality and shall I say an ‘inferior-quality?’

I was once in the hospitality industry. Detailed training of staff in all departments of a hotel was essential to good and profitable management as well as helping staff to enjoy and take pride in their work. For the customer, the details at work in the service at a hotel are a non-issue, but the customer also knows the difference between good service and poor service. To this day, I still notice if restaurant servers use trays to serve something like a cocktail. I think this detail of service is losing traction and quickly disappearing.

I am not a sportive person and have never paid attention to the details of sports like baseball or football. Completely incompetent in these sports, I am amazed when I am made aware of the details at work in any game. I once listened to a lady who was viewing a tv football game. With each play in the game, she was so appreciative of a great pass and a great catch and equally concerned about the details of a coach’s play plan. This kind of attention to detail probably makes the game more exciting to people who appreciate the details that are a blur to me.

Appreciation of the arts such as drama, literature, cinematography, music, photography, and graphics all have at their heart, details. Sometimes a masterpiece is simply appreciated as a common reaction. Everyone says it is a masterpiece, so I agree and give no other thought to the details of what makes for a masterpiece. This is not bad in and of itself, but the masterpiece is called such because of the intricate details applied by the master. The details of perspective, color, texture, subject are all purposeful. Without the details, a would-be-stellar masterpiece would only be a dull piece of art.

While the devil may be in the details, and it is in certain circumstances in life, beauty far outshines comeliness. Beauty is the product of natural or manmade details while ugliness is the product of generalities and thoughtlessness. By our own human nature, which is extremely detailed, we know the difference between coordinated details and chaos.

Published by Thomas

Retired from active priestly ministry in the Catholic Church; former Benedictine monk; francophile; Holocaust researcher; Delta One Million Miler; Ex-Patriated American to the Republic of Panama

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: