Perhaps I have heard the expression so much lately because it tellingly exemplifies the material world and the attitudes of many who dwell in it. In fact, I would posit that a great deal of the material world resides solely in the devil is in the detail realm.
So much of what happens today can be reduced to this – Truth has been eclipsed by the devil in the detail, the simple, straightforward concepts we foolishly accept as truth.
We accept the promise of the simple and straightforward truth only to discover it is infected with hidden complexities, unforeseen circumstances, blatant half-truths, outright lies, cunning deceptions, infuriating nuances, and mesmerizing rhetoric. Treaties, contracts, news, media, policies, education, and mission statements – they all speak the language of the details devil. Yet, we eagerly embrace it all and repeatedly wake up to mind-numbing surprises later.
Turning to those who sold us the promise of the simple truth, we are greeted with gleaming toothpaste white smiles and condescending looks of scorn. “The devil is in the detail,” they callously inform us. “You should have read the fine print. Hired a lawyer. Did you really believe it could be that straightforward? That simple? That easy? Did you think it would all be on the house? No price to pay? No complications to consider?”
We anticipated simple gifts and instead received Pandora’s boxes. Such is the world when the devil is in the detail.
Investigating the origin of the idiom I came across a rather surprising fact. “The devil is in the detail” originates from the earlier phrase “God is in the detail”, which expresses the notion that whatever one commits to doing should be done thoroughly and well. In other words, when it comes to doing a good job, details are important.
Oddly enough, I cannot remember ever hearing “God is in the detail” before. I certainly have not come across it lately. It seems the only entity that resides in details these days is the Devil. Perhaps this is because so few are interested in doing things thoroughly and well.
It is worth noting the God in the detail idiom came first, which is proper, and the devil in the detail idiom perverted itself into existence from the foundation of the God idiom, which seems fitting. The crux of both sayings is, of course, the crucial significance of finer elements and attributes.
Perhaps detail is where our battle lines must be drawn; perhaps this is new philosophy we must speak.
For the Devil, details are covert weapons. They are the subtle, surreptitious fine points that work to conceal Reality, for Reality must be stashed away to make the apparent gift of simple truth seem straightforward. The Devil hides the complexity of evil in backstairs, holes in the corner, and under-the-table places. Evil is crammed into the details, compressed and pressurized. Yet, this cloak-and-dagger tactic the devil uses in the detail game is often short lived. Before long, the surface of his false truth cracks and the evil contained in the details emerges. We stare aghast while the detail devils dance in the chaos they have unleashed.
We must become aware of the Devil and details, and be wary of simple solutions to complex problems, but we must not abandon detail itself. Rather, we must make detail our new focal point, the thing with which we counter the detail devils.
The Devil uses details to conceal; we must use detail to reveal.
Once we have recognized and accepted the Truth, the real Promise of simplicity, the hope that God is in the detail, we must focus on details and dedicate ourselves to crafting them in a manner that all will recognize. We must commit to the Truth by living it out thoroughly and well, and this can only be achieved by focusing on our own individual details contained in our own lived experiences.
If done properly and well, the devil in the detail will become powerless, and the God in the detail will emerge and become visible.