For example, some Korans from 17th-century Turkey, Iran and North India are so elaborate and ornate they are virtually impossible to read except as a visual embodiment of the beauty of the words. The finest artists, calligraphers and craftsmen embellished these books with gold and jewels to inspire reverence for the content.
When I was growing up on the south side of Chicago, a boy I knew was shot and killed on the school playground by older boys from a street gang.
Virgil White and I sang in the choir together. One night, he foolishly tried to take a short cut through the playground alone. The gang members shot him and left him bleeding to death on the cold concrete. Virgil managed to scrawl the names of his killers in his school notebook: "Greg Vincent and Chap Dog killed me." Then he was gone forever, like a wisp of smoke.
They found Virgil's bloodstained notebook clutched in his hand. Years later, I can't look at it without feeling a pang. The terrible beauty of Virgil's marks on paper still touches my heart more than the most lavishly decorated religious text.
Sometimes crude and hasty images are more inspiring than carefully refined ones.
Sometimes an accidental mark-- such as a bloodstain-- is a more powerful design than the work of great artists.
Sometimes the cheapest materials can create images of greater spiritual significance than images made from the purest gold.