I got to thinking today about tools, and how we make their quality more crucial than it is in our lives. Our bicycles are tools as are our motorcycles. Our cameras and computers. Our ratchets and sockets. Tools. An artist's oils, brushes and stretched canvas are tools.
None of them make us creators of memorable items or images or experiences. They only facilitate; the best tools only get out of the way so we can do the best we know how.
Hemingway wrote on a typewriter. Editing was laborious. No spell-checker. He wrote The Old Man and the Sea. We have Microsoft Word. We write emails and blog posts.
If we have $20,000-worth of Snap-On's finest hand tools, we are equipped to set up the suspension on a racing car so that it works on the day and on the track. Are we able to do that?
If we have a Leica (or equivalent) camera, we are equipped to shoot photos equal to the best photographers on the planet, just as sharp, just as dramatic, just as unforgettable. Lots of us have Leicas; nearly none of us shoot stunning photos.
If I buy George Hincapie's bike, not a replica, his bike, and I spend $1,000 to make sure it fits me in every dimension, will I finish next to George at Paris-Roubaix? If I have a clunky old 7-speed racing bike, and George and I swap bikes on the starting line, will I beat him?
I have a slow motorcycle that handles okay. Casey Stoner has a blindingly fast Ducati that we imagine nearly rides itself. If Casey and I switch bikes on the starting line at Laguna Seca, will I beat him around the track? Will my lap times be reported on the UPI wire?
A good tool, an adequate tool, is all the tool we need.
Beyond adequacy, it's "airs and graces," as I think the expression goes. Beyond adequacy, we're wearing cashmere at the tractor pull, shooting a Purdy shotgun for a canned ham at an autumn turkey shoot, riding Casey Stoner's Ducati while the pit guys time us with a calendar.