The Numbers:13 Project
As meal offering for each lamb: a tenth of a measure of fine flour with oil mixed in. Such shall be the burnt offering of pleasing odor, an offering by fire to the LORD. Numbers 28:13
Like most men I know, I believe I can look at a something labeled “some assembly required” and succeed in that “some assembly” with little or no guidance. When I get a new piece of electronic wizardry, I am always glad to find that there are two sets of instructions – the comprehensive user’s manual and the quick-start guide; I don’t need either of them. And when tasked with following a recipe, I need only two measuring devices – a tablespoon and a 1-cup measure – because I have a good eye for how much to fill each if the recipe calls for a teaspoon or a quarter-cup of something.
I am confident in my abilities because, though I have no formal training in these skills, both of my grandfathers were very good with their hands. Plus, I can visualize things in my head.
At the core of the assumptions about all of these various assembling activities is the cavalier attitude of “how hard can it be?” Hammers and nails, Allen wrenches and wood screws, flour and salt, these are ingredients that anyone with a modicum of common sense can figure out how to put together.
Similarly, what prevents me from being a good actor, an admired singer, a talented dancer? Sure, not everyone is DeNiro, Dion or Hough, but how hard can it be to recite your lines, carry a tune or tap your feet?
And if you can ride a bike, you can drive a car. If you can drive a car, you can skipper a boat. If you can skipper a boat (and play a video game), you can pilot a plane. How hard can it be?
I am, of course, wrong about all those things. Be glad I did not become a surgeon.
Some few people in any discipline have natural talent. My late friend Fred could pick up almost any musical instrument and play it well. He took clarinet lessons – his first love – but played the banjo and the piano without any instruction. My cousin Ben can build anything you describe to him like some combination of MIT and MacGyver. My wife can make a technical report read like a Steven King novel.
But mostly, to be good at something, you have to follow directions and learn from a few mistakes (like skipping the instructions). Even the people with exceptional natural talent (in fact, especially those people) will warn you off pretending that you know more than you do. Anyone who has baked a cake without follow the recipe carefully will tell you how unhappy the results are with just a little too much of this or a little too little of that.
It may wind up being a burnt offering, but it is not of pleasing odor.
When the founders of our country wrenched the government from the hands of kings and despots, they wrote out the recipe for the plain old citizens who entered public service to follow. To be sure, government has gotten considerably more complicated since Alexander Hamilton decided not to throw away his shot, but there are no ingredients that can be left out of the Constitution. Lots of people have held office so successfully that they make it look easy. Of course, if we could ask Washington or Lincoln, Shirley Chisholm or Barbara Jordan, Oliver Wendell Homes or Thurgood Marshall if their leadership was as effortless in providing as it appeared in the result, they would laugh. Anyone who came to that conclusion by observing only the result of careful preparation and methodical effort would likely be as superficial as that perception.
And yet, there remain people who look at positions of great responsibility for the nation and its citizens and ask, “How hard can it be?” Willfully ignorant of the Constitution and stubbornly uninformed, they believe the quick-start guide is for incompetents and the user’s manual is for morons.
I don’t want to sit on the chair assembled by the guy who skipped the directions. I don’t want to suffer through a concert by the person whose vocal training is a morning shower. I don’t want to ski behind a boat navigated by someone who learned on a Schwinn. Maybe they have the natural talent of my cousin Ben, but if it turns out they don’t, and they are endangering us all, someone should take away
the hammer, the mic or the keys.
In the process, we just might restore the Constitution.