Niagara Gazette

Columns

January 12, 2014

SINGER: The perils of underestimation

Niagara Gazette — On paper many things — maybe most — sound easier than they turn out to be. I think of England’s Chamberlain back from Munich, optimistically waving a piece of paper and declaring that Hitler wouldn’t annex the rest of Czechoslovakia he hadn’t yet gotten. In Parliament Churchill said he would, and was proven correct some five months later (March 1939).

Or take the beguiling matter of slowing Iran’s march toward nuclear arms, via a pact that’s problematic due to cheating possibilities, especially given what Iranian authorities elect to “acknowledge” as functioning facilities. It all sounded easier when it first hit the news.

Closer to home, there have been much-discussed projects for urban renewal and hotels; but again, they’ve proven easier said than done.

By the way, I’m not preaching from on high. I myself have frequently taken what turns out a complex route, underestimating big time, while admiring those who go more A to B. A famed architect, Mies van der Rohe, once said that less is more, and when students have the choice of sprouting an essay on a restricted subject, or on something from Plato to NATO in a few pages, one gets a sense of differing personalities.

Those who bite off more than they can proverbially chew were often pushed by parents, always enjoining them to do more. The obvious result can be “thinness” and a paradoxical reworking of van der Rohe’s celebrated phrase, as “more is less.”

So I guess there are two conjoined themes here: don’t underestimate and try to keep things simple and straightforward. That includes even in your golf swing, which most can shorten! Do that, before worrying about pronating the wrists, etc. Descartes in his “Discourse on Method” also said it’s best to start with smaller difficulties and problems, working up gradually to more intractable ones.

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