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    The Beautiful: The Grand Weaver

    September 27, 2007 by Brandy Vencel

    It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I both agree and disagree. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines beauty as

    An assemblage of graces, or an assemblage of properties in the form of the person or any other object, which pleases the eye. In the person, due proportion or symmetry of parts constitutes the most essential property to which we annex the term beauty. In the face, the regularity and symmetry of the features, the color of the skin, the expression of the eye, are among the principal properties which constitute beauty.

    He also says that beauty is

    A particular excellence, or a part which surpasses in excellence that with which it is united; as the beauties of an author.

    I added some emphasis to explain in what way I believe beauty to be objective. There is a sense in which beauty is proportional to the amount of order evident in the object.

    Symmetry an Evidence of Beauty
    On June 3, 1996, just days before I graduated high school, I remember reading The Biology of Beauty, that week’s cover story of Newsweek. The bottom line was that one’s perception of beauty in another human being is more closely based on symmetry than anything else. Did you know Denzel Washington’s face is almost completely symmetrical? This is why he isn’t considered subjectively beautiful. Symmetry is objective.

    But symmetry, to my mind, is evidence of order. And orderliness lends itself to beauty, though, naturally, the two aren’t the same thing. This is why a simple bed made is more beautiful than an extravagant bed unmade {for the record, I didn’t make my bed today}.

    The Beautiful
    And so, I will say, now that I have set the above foundation, that The Grand Weaver possesses all the basic aspects of beauty, but is weak on one.

    First, in order to get it out of the way, there are no ugly distractions. The font is clear, the graphics are appealing without overwhelming, the table of contents is easy to read. Basic visual appeal is there.

    Second, the craft is {mostly} there. Though Zacharias is obviously no Chesterton or Lewis, he weaves a good story in a beautiful way. He was even able to make a sad story of death and loss a beautiful one. Zacharias’ greatest asset is, in my opinon, his use of color. He describes the vibrant colors of a wedding sari for an Indian bride in such a way that the reader can’t help but visualize the amazing sight.

    Beyond the Craft
    But there is another form of beauty, a form on which I think all others need to rest. If the orderliness is lacking, the beauty of the craft is essentially breaking away from its anchor. And, unfortunately, I think this happened in a number of the chapters.

    Here is a graphic I used to depict the basic points from chapter five {called “Your Spirituality Matters”}:

    I will explain this graphic briefly. There were three main sections that followed a logical order. There were stories also, in between mostly, that I won’t go into. Stories serve only to illustrate a point. The problem was the lack of a strong logic connecting these sections together in a way that optimally promoted the reader learning what was being taught.

    So, what was being taught? Well, the bottom line for each chapter follows a pattern: Your x Matters. In the instance of this chapter, x=spirituality. The last sentence of the chapter says, “Your spirituality matters to God, and it must matter to you as well.”

    Is the chapter filled with insight? Without a doubt. Did I learn anything? Certainly. But the chapter reads more like a collection of personal reflections on the idea of spirituality than actually moving toward any set conclusion.

    Here is a graphic I created to depict my preference for such a chapter:

    I didn’t rearrange the sections, but rather broke the entire chapter down into questions, asked in a logical order {Trivium method of learning, of course}. If the author chose to rearrange his chapter in such a way that it answered these questions in order, there would be a much more logical flow. After answering all of these questions, then it is time to explain why one’s spirituality matters to God, and why it should matter to oneself.

    Trivium Isn’t Everything
    Please don’t get me wrong. When one is taking a hike along a river, following a few tributaries to see where they lead may be enjoyable, even breathtaking. However, I am confronting this because of a trend I see in current writers. There is a general lack of care for teaching a subject in an orderly manner that is present in the industry. The teachers in our times seem to believe they can wander where they will without any detriment to their students.

    I disagree.

    A seasoned guide may lead me through some great nature trails, but, being that I am unfamiliar with the terrain, it is unlikely I would find my way home without the guide. Disorderly teaching breeds dependent students. Unable to find my way home alone, I must cling to my guide at every step.

    However, a teacher who takes pains with order might see his students jump ahead of him. Because he appeals to their own innate capacity for logic, they may anticipate where he is going and be able to run down the well-trodden path in advance. This is why it is said that the liberal arts are liberating.

    Well-trodden paths are for beginners.

    Just like this book.

    My advice? Leave the tributaries to the advanced students who have a solid understanding of the subject. They are a delight to follow, but often lead the beginner astray.

    Order is a foundation for beauty. It isn’t everything, and something can indeed be orderly and ugly at the same time.

    However, comma…

    There is nothing beautiful about confusion. This is why I believe that books, especially books aimed at novices, should take special pains with their logic.

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