Monday, November 1, 2010

Laws of Making 3: Truth is the Substance of True Making

Making Monday

The third Law of Understanding is that Truth is the Substance of True Making.

First, a word about the word true: thanks to the degree that concepts from math and science have permeated our culture, most of us associate true with right and correct. But there's another, older sense of the word that means straight or serviceable. A board that is not warped is said to be true. There's also the sense of true that means loyalty and fidelity, as in, a true friend. The true in true making should be understood in the older senses: making that is straight and faithful.

So, how is truth the substance of true making?

Engineers deal more directly in terms of truth: if the device blows up on the lab bench, no amount of rhetorical spin will change that fact or make it suddenly work. In other endeavors, like politics, the truth of something can be changed by talking about it differently (see Truthiness).

Makers are largely uninterested in the ways in which something may be interpreted because they understand that a thing can't be made until you understand it as it really is.

I heard a story long ago about a factory owner with a troublesome machine. He called in a specialist, who listened for a few minutes, made some adjustments, and had the machine back in perfect working order. When the owner saw the $500 invoice, he protested that the specialist had only worked for five minutes. The specialist took the invoice and itemized it: Labor $10, Knowing what to fix $490.

As this story illustrates, once you understand the truth of a thing or situation, the actual work of making is often straightforward.


 Image: Bill Longshaw / FreeDigitalPhotos.net