Measure Twice, Cut Once (1996)

Norm Abram’s helpful little book on tools, Measure Twice, Cut Once, is excellent. More of a reference book disguised as a nonfiction book, Norm gives insights into proper uses, techniques, and storage systems for numerous hand tools.

I was at a loss for what to really reflect on theologically – such is the purpose of this blog. Then I got to the final section, titled “This One’s for You,” which explains why the book is dedicated to his late-father. After finishing the book, he noticed that his father’s wisdom appears throughout it. And I suspect that this is the case for anyone who is a second or third generation craftsman.

Eagle-eyed readers of the blog will notice that there is a relatively new tab labeled “Alasdair’s” above. Alasdair’s is a dream of mine. My dream is to start a traditional-woodworking small business (either formally or informally) in the future—hopefully, by 2016. And I know that my interest in woodworking was passed on to me from my dad. I remember watching Norm’s New Yankee Workshop along with Roy Underhill’s The Woodwright Shop. I also remember watching my dad work with wood. As a young boy, I’d be sent back into the house when the table saw started up so as to not get injured by any flying wood. But more and more, I got closer to my dad’s work in his shop. My favorite memories are of us turning spinning tops together on his midi lathe. Good times and happy memories to be sure.

But the important thing for this post is the importance of a tradition. Norm Abram, a master craftsman, is a carrier of tradition. Through his teaching others, he passes on the tradition. My dad has done the same thing, passing his knowledge on to me.

Tradition, as Alasdair MacIntyre puts it, is a sustained argument through time. The church, and the church’s wisdom, is a sustained argument over against other wisdoms. The church says that God is triune and that there is no God other than the God revealed as Father, Son, and Spirit. The church says that, through the Son, God has revealed the way to live—having a contemplative active life, a nonviolent life, a life that cares for the marginalized. (I realize that certain quarters of the church ignore the nonviolent part, but theologically, I think it is essential to the life and witness of the church.)

And such is the value of tradition. Whether it’s passing along the skills to build a sound table or passing along the practices to live a virtuous life, tradition must be appreciated, paid attention to, passed on, and accepted as the wisdom that it is.

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