Look closely

by Steve Brock on September 4, 2013

If I’m talking to people about contracts, legal fine print or instructions for using their new smart phone, the phrase I hear is this: “The devil is in the details.” If, on the other hand, the subject is more pleasant like unpacking the meaning of a great movie or the secret ingredient of a recipe, I’ll hear this: “God is in the details.”

Which is it?

I’ll let you decide based on the circumstance. However, when it comes to finding new ways to perceive the familiar, I’ll land squarely in the God camp. Often the best way to see something with fresh eyes is to look at the details. That’s where you often find the hidden wonder.

I’ll stick with the Arc de Triomphe for one more example. Most people look at the Arc and what do they see? A large triumphant, Roman-like victory arch. The monument itself.

La Marseillaise-overviewBut look more closely.

The Arc’s facade is covered with six sculpted reliefs. In addition, there are four main sculptures around the Arc, each monumental in size as the image above shows. This particular one, The Departure of the Volunteers by Francois Rude is more commonly known as La Marseillaise. It’s an impressive piece of work showing an allegorical representation of France as she leads her people.

Just taking time to pay attention to the sculptures themselves is one thing, but the wonder comes when you go even closer. Check out this shot of the face of the lead figure:

La Marseillaise-detail

Not a face you see every day. I might have missed this altogether and gone my way content with the views from the top of the Arc. Thankfully, in the small museum near the top they have placed this version of La Marseillaise which made me curious to see the bigger sculpture outside:

La Marseillaise-interior

It’s easy to walk right past sculptures and public art. But on this day, I was given the reminder to look closer. Pay attention. Notice the details.

I reluctantly visited the Arc de Triomphe just so my family could take a quick look. But by looking more closely at the details and later, at home, reading up on the history and background of it, I have a whole new sense of appreciation.

It’s still a big, brazen monument smack dab in the middle of Paris. But now I realize it is also something much more.

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