By Craig Funston
I was reminded recently of the need for necessary tools. You’re thinking, “Yes, where would we be without our saw, hammer, or thingamajig?”
My words exactly, and I would add: “Where would anyone be without a level?”
Levels, for all you non-construction types, is like a yardstick with a little bubble in the middle. It can be superfluous if we have a good set of eyes—or a least we think so. We do that all the time when it comes to hanging framed pictures, don’t we? We stand back, eyeball it, and hang it up. Sometimes we’re straight, sometimes we’re a little off.
And “off” we can be, in every sense of the word. More on that later.
So when we were installing those fencing cross bars recently, there really was no place for “sometimes”: Either it was straight or it wasn’t. And if we were off just a little, by the time we were finished, we were off a lot. A little lazy now means disarray later. Or, in a much broader application, a little careless mistake here will always lead to a much bigger mistake there.
A level, at its most rudimentary, uh, level, can act as a simple straight edge. An expensive straight edge, no less, but it can serve that purpose. However, levels are meant for much more important tasks. We don’t want to minimize the significance of using a level, do we? Nor do we want to under-estimate the need for sensible principles of basic life skills.
Levels help create structure, balance, and accuracy. With no level, it’s guess work and presumption. Do we really want that for our fences? Walls? Buildings? Again, do we really want that haphazard approach to the significant issues in life? I didn’t think so either.
Levels are really a word picture for those intuitive rules and foundations that we need to live by. In other words, we need “levels” in every component of life, making “level”-headed decisions, not just random, impetuous choices.
It’s even a integral part of our language: A person “on the level” is a good, straight-shooting person; and a “level” playing field is based on equity and fairness for all.
There really is no place for sometimes straight and steady, sometimes off and unsteady.
So now I shift into a preachy mode at this juncture of the column. I see the need for a level of sorts in so many aspects of life—a measuring stick that provides some sort of benchmark and basis for everything we do.
In law, for example, if there is no standard basis for right and wrong—no legal level, if you will—we end up with chaos and anarchy. In marriage, yet another relevant example, if there is no standard that we submit to for what is healthy and unhealthy, we have abuse and tension. Law and marriage are only two of countless examples where basic rules are necessary, but they are both foundational institutions for a healthy culture.
Interestingly enough, we do have these problems today—and I suggest to you that it is because we have drifted away (maybe even run away) from something that once provided a level component as to how we approached law and marriage.
Some of you know that I am chomping at the bit to bring the Bible into this discussion. I want to and could easily show that the ultimate “level” in any civilized society is indeed the Bible—read, understood, and applied—but I refrain. Suffice to say, a clearly applied understanding of the Scriptures is the firm foundation for every component of every thriving society.
I am simply saying that there is a need—a desperate need, in fact—for a sound basis for institutions, to say nothing of how we build, eat, and talk, for example. There can’t be a myriad of standards, varying standards, double standards, or worse, no standards, if we want to survive. Guess work is not an option; individualism doesn’t cut the mustard.
I remain amazed at someone’s ingenuity years ago to develop the simple straight edge with a bubble in it. If the bubble is in the right place, then the work at hand is level. If it’s off, it produces problems.
Likewise, the “bubble” in the level for our culture is off a little. We need a moral level in every component of culture. And remember: Even a token off in the little things means it’s really off in the big things.
We can all learn life lessons from the level. Keep the “bubble” in the middle: That will keep everything nice and straight.