Those of you who read my Blog regularly know that Mme Mère’s genius with a needle and thread was rivaled only by my own ineptitude with same.
|Vintage Sewing Patterns|
It never failed to amaze me how she could take all those wispy pieces of yellowed paper and turn them into everything from a frilly apron to a fancy cocktail dress. Somehow those bits and pieces came together in her mind first and she could see the finished product before she even pinned the first piece of paper to the material. In other words, she could see the pattern as a whole and how all the parts would work together to create that whole.
You’re probably wondering where I’m going with all this and if you want to follow along. Well, I promise it will all come together in the end.
The thing is, it’s all about patterns -- whether or not we see them and what we do with them.
Here’s what I mean.
Last week, I stopped in to my local Sephora to buy a birthday gift for a friend. Now, I have nothing against facial piercings (Well, actually, I do, but that’s another subject.), but I generally try to find a sales clerk who has a minimum of them, because I find them distracting. When a nice young, facially unpierced woman offered to help me pick out something for my friend, I was delighted. We got to talking about this (men/boys) and that (marriage/babies) and she told me she had just been “dumped” by her boyfriend.
“It’s always the same story,” she sighed. “I always fall for the same kinda guy and think I can change them. It never works.”
After expressing my sympathy, I said, “I’m not an expert on the subject, but it seems to me that there’s a pattern here that’s working against you. Maybe you should change it.”
One of the many casualties of the proliferation of political correctness, in addition to a sense of humor and common sense, is the ability to make judgments. We are constantly being told not to be judgmental, but if we can’t make judgments, how can we hope to connect the dots that create the patterns that help us make sense of the people and the world around us? Children learn early on the difference between pain and pleasure and will quickly make the judgment to avoid the former in favor of the latter.
Even my cats know that if they knock enough objects off my desk, I’ll finally realize that lunch is late. They recognize the pattern – annoy Mom long enough and you get fed.
I love watching C-SPAN 2 on the weekends. They almost always have something interesting that you won’t find on any of the other channels. On Saturday morning, I got up in my usual grumpy cat mood, fed the cats, put the kettle on and turned on C-SPAN 2. A young woman was giving a lecture on physics, a subject not normally very high on my list of interests. I had never actually taken a Physics class, but had suffered through more than enough science courses in high school and college to know that Science would never be my subject of interest. The French call Chemistry la cuisine du diable (the devil’s cuisine), and just the smell of a Chemistry lab can put me off.
The young lecturer, Helen Czerski, a Professor of Physics and author of Storm in a Teacup: The physics of everyday life (Bantam Press 2016), was clearly brilliant, very funny and had the gift of making a highly complex subject seem, if not wholly understandable to the layman, at least approachable. Her energy and passion for her subject was infectious and almost made me think about signing up for one of her courses…..almost!!
What really caught my attention and fired my imagination was when she talked about the crucial role that physics plays in helping us to see the patterns of the physical world. Helen Czerski is one of those rare, wondrous creatures who loves getting lost in the details but never loses sight of the big picture. We need more Helen Czerskis in the world to help us make sense of it. Here’s how she puts it:
"In science, you dig and dig and dig and dig until you're absolutely sure you've done the best possible job. You spend a very long time thinking about very tiny details.
"With the communications side, the rigour comes somewhere else. It comes in understanding, seeing the big picture, and picking out the one thing that will be of interest to someone who hasn't ever thought about it before.
During the question-and-answer session following her lecture, a man asked her one of the great questions that has baffled mankind for millenia: “Why does the toast always fall butter-side down?” She smiled and said, “Experiment and find out for yourself. And, no, it has nothing to do with the butter.”