May 22 • 07:04 PM

Consistency's good for baking . . .

July 30, 2008
Con • sist •en • cy (ken sis' ten sé) n., 1. the condition of holding together and retaining form. 2. degree of density or firmness. 3. steadfast adherence to the same principles, course. 4. agreement among parts or things.

That's how Webster's defines "consistency," but when I hear the word, I think of sculpting with clay, thinning acrylic or watercolor paints, kneading bread. I think of a straight line that trails off into oblivion: Boring, unwavering, easy to step right over and dismiss as nonexistent. I think of predictability, of uniformity, of regularity. Of boredom.

Still, it's good to be consistent about some things, I suppose. Take personality traits for example. I like it when someone is consistently kind or funny or generous.

But consistency isn't as attractive when someone is consistently rude or hurtful or mean.

So, since I've got some trouble when it comes to consistency, I thought I'd look it up to see just exactly where it is that I fall short. It's a good thing I did, too. Because as you can tell ol' Webster's definition and my understanding of the word are two different things.

But just to be fair, I'll hold up the mirror. Here goes:

Let's see. "Holding together and retaining form" hasn't been much of a problem lately. All my parts are still connected and my form is pretty much the same. And while I feel a little bit freaky sometimes, my mind has remained basically intact thus far.

Now, with regard to "steadfast adherence to the same principles, course," I'll admit I fall a little short. Call me pragmatic, but I'm tiptoeing up the ladder of discovery just about every day. Sometimes those discoveries change the way I think or feel. Sometimes I slip on a rung and that diverts my upward climb. The course—whether by desire or design— has been altered. So sue me.

On the other hand, I keep my word and try not to judge others. My heart is generally open, I constantly strive to improve, and I sleep on the same side of the bed night after night. I'd say that wins me a few consistency points.

As far as "agreement among parts or things," if I understand this correctly it means that all the components of whatever makes something (or someone) whole fit together in a uniform fashion. Well, I'm not going to touch that one. Sure, my ankle bone's connected to my knee bone, etc., but when it comes to proportions, symmetry and whatnot, I'd rather not comment. As for the components that make up my mind, well, they're more like a puzzle. Sometimes the pieces fit like a lock and key, and sometimes a few of them are missing. It's either one or the other, I'm pretty consistent about that.

So. I'm left with one final definition to evaluate— "the degree of density or firmness." Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding. I think the buzzer is sounding.

Sometimes I'm pretty dense about seeing some things for exactly what they are, and not quite exactly firm when it comes to taking the blinders off. Bingo. That's pretty darn "inconsistent."

So instead of Websters I turn to other sources who've thought a thing or two about consistency:

"Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative."

—Oscar Wilde

"There are those who would misteach us that to stick in a rut is consistency—and a virtue, and that to climb out of the rut is inconsistency—and a vice."

—Mark Twain

"People who honestly mean to be true really contradict themselves much more rarely than those who try to be 'consistent.'"—Oliver Wendell Holmes

"Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago."—Bernard Berenston

...And perhaps my favorite—at least for today—is this: "The only man who can change his mind is the man who's got one."—Edward Noyes Westcott

Consistency is good when it comes to baking bread or molding clay. But when it comes to walking through life, it's like putting cement boots on before the journey. Simply put, life is full of inconsistencies and there's something rather consistent about that.

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