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El Greco, India, and God

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At a church fair in Nagpur, India, I was given a calendar printed by a local secondary school as one of my gratuities for sitting on stage among 40 other honored guests for an endless hour of speeches.The center picture on each page is a scene of Christ going about his work. The pictures did not fit the space available so the designer simply elongated them. Christ and his friends, donkeys and birds look like the work of El Greco.

At the Prado, I was told that El Greco had a visual impairment: that’s why his figures are elongated.

The designer has no such excuse. His job was not to deliver a quality product; his job was to get the thing done on time.

Which he did.

A rare feat in India, getting anything done on time.

An impossible task in Chicago, getting the thing done on time – to perfection.

When I first looked at the pictures, I had that superior First World feeling: we would never publish anything so, well, amateur. We strive for perfection on deadline. We worry that we split an infinitive while the print job is on the press. We scrutinize the press proofs: is that the exact right shade of yellow? And when the job is done, we always see some little something that could have been worded more fluently, designed more artistically. All this worry when we know that most readers are blithely unaware of the finer points of grammar and design.

The calendar reminds me that few care about, or even recognize, perfection.

I wonder if my friends notice that Christ and his disciples took a bit stretched, like they were racked. Or do they just notice the smiles of folks out and about with The Teacher.

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