Saturday, October 22, 2005

Measure twice?

I was reading a book by a US-based carpenter. The title was "Measure Twice, Cut Once".

She was Russian, pretty new to this country.

She looked at the title of the book, and asked me to explain.

"Well, the idea is you should double-check your plan before you do anything," I said. "Specifically in crafts, where you don't want to waste material."

She said:

"I see. In Russia we have a saying like this. But very different.

"Actually, seeing the US expression tells me a lot about the US ...

"I almost thought it must be a joke.

"In Russia we say 'measure seven times, cut once'. It's a warning against waste. Also, to make you think hard about what you're doing."

Immediately, I felt dizzy with historical implications.

In the resource-rich, time-pressured, go-go American Experience, of course you don't measure more than twice. But in a resource-poor, quality-oriented environment -- almost all of human history -- much more is at stake. Resources, lives, your very soul.

"Measure twice, cut once" may have originated as a way to crack the whip, in a wage-slave environment. Not to encourage care.

Why are so many things ... the exact opposite of the way they appear?