Look again!

by johnwilliamlindsay

Junior high was pretty intense. Sometimes it all runs together, but alot of lessons were learned in those two years, as well as the year we spent in no man’s land, our freshman year, which was the last year of the old high school, and the year before they split us into two “campuses” north and south – in the same building. Sheer genius. One of those lessons has stayed with me, and surfaced numerous times as an explanation for part of the reason Iyam who Iyam!

One of our junior high teachers found a book that was a collection of essays and short stories. I remember it clearly, if not the title. It was a blue book with clouds on the cover. Honestly, I think it was a little over our heads, but he insisted that we each pick one of the entries and write about what it meant to us. I was close to last, so the picking was slim. My “selection” was an essay by Samuel Scudder (who I had never heard of) about his experience as a student of the great Harvard Paleontologist of the 1800’s, Louis Agassiz (who I had never heard of). The essay was grinding to read, because I just had no interest at the time in rocks and fossils. I read it over and over, trying to find something that related to my life or how I could apply Agassiz’s intensity to my life.

Schiller’s focus was on his observations of a specimen that he thought was thorough and complete. His examination by Agassiz consisted of relating those observations to the great teacher one on one, in an oral test. Agassiz shrugged off his detailed description with the challenge to “look again!” Schiller repeated this process over and over until Agassiz finally accepted his observations.

For some reason, that challenge has always stuck with me. Whether I am looking for an item that most closely fits a function I “need”, a principle or idea that where more clarity is needed, or a product or concept for a customer, I think I have the reputation of being relentless until I find the answer that is “just right”. In my woodworking, my approach has become more and more exacting, whether it is a piece of hardware that gives a client the function needed, one more cycle of finishing that gives a certain glow or protection level. It helps me learn, develop and be better. I am sure Agassiz would look at my results and often tell me to “look again!” but for me, I am satisfied that I must do a little more, and make the extra effort, because “good enough” mostly just isn’t.