July 29, 2004

The Spirit of the Law

My name is Stephanie and I can't do as I'm told.

Well, that's not entirely true. It is simply that I am far more interested in The Spirit of the Law, rather than the Letter of the Law.

This concept (one of which I have been fond for some time) is well illustrated by the difference between a Saturday night in Toronto, and a Saturday night in a very small town. Let's say that a guy is walking down Queen Street in Toronto. It's a busy street, there's tons of people, it's a hot night and dude's walking home from the beer store. Suddenly, he gets an idea, reaches into his bag and cracks himself a cold one. Buddy is walking down Queen Street, drinking a beer, completely sober, hurting nobody. I promise you, if a cop sees that beer open on Queen Street, our friend is going to the Don Jail til Monday morning. The law says no drinking alcohol in public spaces, and that's what the cop is going to enforce. Toronto's a big city. The cop doesn't have time to work out that buddy is sober and harmless. The cop is enforcing the "Letter of the Law".

Now, switch over to a small town. Same guy, same Saturday night, same beer. Dude's walking down the street, drinking a beer in public...which is absolutely still against the law. Luckily, this is the only crime being committed in the small town this evening and when the cop sees him, he has time to figure out what's going on. He talks to the dude for a bit and finds out that he is sober and harmless. Since the "no drinking in public law" is really there to keep harmful drunks off the street, and this guy isn't a harmful drunk, the cop reminds our friend that he shouldn't be drinking on the street and suggests he pour out the beer and get along home before he opens another. This is "The Spirit of the Law" in action.

Here's today's example as it applies to knitting. The Cherry Aran pieces are all knit and now all it needs is a neckband and button bands. Excellent. I glance at my pattern book and see that the sweater does indeed have a neckband, that it is knit in 1x1 rib and that you pick up and knit some stitches after joining both shoulder seams. There's some other information there, like how many to pick up, what side they think I should pick them up from, and how many rows of 1x1 rib they think the neckband should have. Those instructions represent the "letter of the law". The "Spirit of the law" is basically saying that you should end up with a neckband done in 1x1 rib, not that I should sit here for 17 hours tinking and picking up stitches along the neckline to get the exact number in the pattern making myself crazy until I'm mean to my husband and hate the stupid little sweater.


I didn't even read how many they thought I should pick up.
It's not that I don't have any respect for what they are telling me. I understand the law. I understand that someone went to a lot of trouble to work that out for me, and darn it...I appreciate it. Considering though that I am familiar with the law and what it is intended to do, I don't believe that they intended for me to throw my common sense out the window and give myself new wrinkles trying to pick up 46 instead of 44 stitches or disregarding the experience I have gained knitting neckbands in the past, or that they want for me not to think about what kind of neckband I would like. Therefore, I will pick up as many stitches as seems right, and if it looks right, I'm just going to follow the rest of the instructions which specified a 1x1 rib for ...well, as far as I like it. I am absolutely confident that knitting is something where the spirit of the law matters more than the letter.

I'm not drinking a beer on Queen St. though. The Don Jail sucks.

Posted by Stephanie at July 29, 2004 11:39 AM