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Elbow Learning
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Photo: Studiomill
In the late 1600s and early 1700s a half-literate Italian craftsman named Antonio Stradivari designed and made a series of beautiful musical instruments. Today, those violins, named after the Latinized form of his name, Stradivarius, are considered priceless.

In 2010, a Stradivarius was purchased for $3.6 million. It is believed there are only around five hundred of them still in existence, some of which have been submitted to the most intense scientific examination in an attempt to reproduce their extraordinary sound quality. But no one has been able to replicate Stradivari's craftsmanship.

Today we do know that Stradivari used spruce for the top, willow for the internal blocks and linings, and maple for the back, ribs, and neck. He also treated the wood with several types of minerals, including potassium borate, sodium and potassium silicate, as well as a handmade varnish that appears to have been composed of gum arabic, honey, and egg white.

Genius Craftsman

But the genius craftsman never once recorded his technique for posterity. Instead, he passed on his knowledge to a number of his apprentices through what one scholar called "elbow learning."

The apprentices of the great Stradivari didn't learn their craft from books or manuals but by sitting at his elbow and feeling the wood as he felt it to assess its length, its balance, and its timbre right there in their fingertips. All the learning happened at his elbow, and all the knowledge was contained in his fingers.1

What an amazing analogy of how we all must learn spiritual things...by spending time with Jesus. It is while we are in His presence that we begin to really grasp some of the truths that perhaps have eluded us by merely reading about Him.

The Bible says, "As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, 'Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!.' 'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her'" (Luke 10:38-42).

Have you spent time in Christ's presence today?

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By Michael Temple. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ® 2011.

1 Lance Ford, Unleader (Beacon Hill Press, 2012), pp. 177-178.


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