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Teaching, Nature, and the Harmonics of Beauty


I have always been bad at math. I don’t know whether it is some kind of disability or whether it’s just not in my Nature, but I feel the lack just the same.

To that end, I’ve been studying in the “Geometry for Dummies” or “Algebra Made Easy” shallow end of the Math pool.

It didn’t help me.

I had almost resigned myself to ignorance and despair when I read this in Stephen Skinner’s book, Sacred Geometry:

“Just as growth is expressed by repeating patterns, so art and virtuosity in architecture are often expressed by harmony.”

My pulse quickened. Finally, a geometry book I might understand. I read the next sentence:

“What is harmony but the (maybe subliminal) repetition of the same proportions? The parts of the whole do not even have to be in precisely the same proportion but can be a harmonic of that proportion.”

I laughed. I couldn’t believe it. After years of struggling with equations, I “got it”. I understood the gross idea. Instead of jumping right into equational dissection like every other “expert” I had read, Skinner began with harmonics and Pythagoras first. He started with beauty. My affection was captured. I began to really “see”, albeit dimly, Geometry.

So what does all this have to do with Nature and the Harmonics of Beauty?

As I slowly begin to better understand Geometry, I’m wondering if man being made in God’s image means, in part, that we are like echoes of God’s sound. This Tolkeinesque approach to our Imago Dei-ness seems proper to me. Our humanity is proportionally different to God’s existence as “Spirit and truth”, but like him in the same way the image of a thing has its origin in the likeness of the thing itself. As I contemplate on the harmonics of beautiful proportions, several types come to mind.

The Nature of the man my son will become is already in him. As he grows older, the “boy-ness” will still be there, but will be supplanted by the “man-ness”. As did Paul, when my son becomes a man, he will put away childish things. The boy nature will be “outgrown”, and the man nature will become capable of deeper service and connection with God.

It is analogous to a sapling and a tree. The sapling embodies the tree it will become, and you can do more with a tree than a sapling.

The children we serve are resonant. They are proportionally harmonic to God, their parents, and even their teacher. As we embody the logos for our students, I am reminded of what one Greek, Galen, once wrote, quoting Polykleitos, “… [beauty consists] in the proportions not of the elements, but of the parts…”

Now if I could just learn to play an instrument…

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