Character Building - Precision In Execution
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
"PRECISION " is a word that comes from two Latin words -prae, before, and caedere, to cut. Something that is measured and cut off until it is exact. "Execution" also comes from two Latin words-ex, out, and sequi, to follow. To follow out directions. We speak of "hewing to the line." A straight chalk-line is drawn along a log. "Execution" means squaring the log; "precision" means hewing exactly to the line. A mother can teach precision in execution as soon as her little girl begins to cut and make a dress for her doll. A boy loves a knife and a pine stick. If he merely whittles, his play has very little educational value, but in trying to make some-thing of value he can be taught precision in execution.
The first aid to a child who is not to be injured by training is a careful education of the eye. Precision in vision is peculiarly vital. The following story will illustrate this truth.
A dervish was journeying along in the desert, when two merchants suddenly met him. "You have lost a camel," said he to the merchants. "Indeed we have," they replied. "Was he not blind in his right eye, and lame in his left leg?" said the dervish. "He was," replied the merchants. "Had he not lost a front tooth?" said the dervish. "He had," replied the merchants. "And was he not loaded on one side with honey, and wheat on the other?" "Most certainly he was," they replied, " and as you have seen him so lately, and marked him so particularly, you can, in all probability, conduct us to him." "My friends," said the dervish, "I have never seen your camel nor even heard of him but from you." "A pretty story truly," said the merchants, "but where are the jewels which formed part of his cargo?" " I have neither seen your camel, nor your jewels," repeated the dervish. On this they seized his person and forthwith hurried him before the cadi, where on the strictest search nothing could be found upon him, nor could any evidence whatever be adduced to convict him either of falsehood or of theft. They were about to proceed against him as a sorcerer, when the dervish, with great calmness, thus addressed the court:
"I have been much amused with your surprise, and own that there has been some ground for your suspicions; but I have lived long and alone, and I can find ample scope for observation, even in a desert. I knew that I had crossed the track of a camel that had strayed from its owner, because I saw no mark of human footstep on the same route. I knew that the animal was blind in one eye, because it had cropped the herbage only on one side of its path, and I perceived that it was lame in one leg, from the faint impression which that particular foot had produced upon the sand. I concluded that the animal had lost one tooth, because, wherever it had grazed, a small tuft of herbage was left uninjured, in the center of the bite. As to that which formed the burden of the beast, the busy ants informed me that it was wheat on the one side, and the clustering bees, that it was honey on the other."
The next line of education for precision in execution is that of language. The child should be taught to describe accurately all that has been carefully observed. Precision in observation can be beautifully executed in words. Language is thought made visible. The dervish used but few words, but he makes us see the lone camel ambling along the desert path. We see ants in companies carrying home the wheat, and can almost hear the hum of the honey-laden bees. Precision in language is as great an art as is precision in painting.
An alert little five-year-old was visiting a city park with her mother for the first time. She noticed the beautiful red and white swan-boats, and coaxed for a sail in a beautiful boat. But when her mother started toward the landing, little Elsie declared very vigorously that she did not want to go at all, and as her mother urged her, broke forth in tears. This sudden fear was so different from her former eagerness that her mother could not understand it until she noticed the boatman's call. He was crying, "Come along, come along -ride clear round the pond-only five cents for ladies and gents-children thrown in."
Precision in language would have prevented the child's unhappiness and increased the boatman's income.
Simultaneous with the education of eye and tongue is the training of the hand. Manual training masters the art of execution. The hand can be educated to visualize objects, mastered by eye and tongue. The girl with scissors and needle, and the boy with knife and stick, can be taught the precision in execution of a Worth in his visualized dream of a gown, and of Sir Christopher Wren in his visualized dream of a St. Paul's Cathedral. "They should have tasks within their power and do them really well." Execution implies completion. Benjamin West said to Morse, "Finish one picture, and you are a painter."
A mother need not be told the value and necessity of an educated conscience. "I ought" gives precision in the execution of any work that is to be well-pleasing to God. A sculptor, when asked why he put so much labor and skill upon the back of a statue that was to fit into a niche, answered, "The gods see it."
Anything that is worth doing is worth doing with precision in its execution. Trifles make perfection, but perfection is no trifle.
Funny and preposterous though it be, "The Three Brothers" in Volume I exactly illustrates this point of precision in execution, and most of the fairy tales lay stress on it. Then take two tales in Volume II, "The Jellyfish and the Monkey" and "William Tell." In Volume III "Dicky Random" was written with precision in speech and action in view. See "The Archery Contest" in Volume IV. Of different aspect but of highest value are these articles in Volume VIII: "Shoe-making Machines," "The Eye as an Optical Instrument," "Discoveries in the Heavens," "On a Piece of Chalk," and "Bees in the Hive." In Volume IX read "Method," and in Volume X, "How Shall we Learn to Remember?" Another side of the quality of precision is given in "The Piano and How to Play It" and "On the Teaching of Singing and the Singer's Art," in Volume XII.