This is a clip from the 1986 film Crocodile Dundee where Mick and Susan run across some muggers. One of them takes out a stiletto and demands Mick’s wallet. Mick pulls out a large hunting knife and says, “…there, now that’s a knife.” It’s a blade for use in the field, not something I’d carry for EDC. I live and work in an urban environment and a blade of that size would attract unwanted attention. But a knife doesn’t have to be very big at all to do that. I was in the post office years ago and I took a Swiss Army knife out of my pocket to open some mail. A woman walked in, saw me cutting the flap on an envelope, stopped and shuddered. She actually looked afraid of a 3-inch pocket knife. It’s a common brand, not something anyone should see as a threat. Her reaction was irrational. The thing is, she’s not alone. It’s a form of aichmophobia, or a fear of sharp things and I believe it results from post-modern conditioning. We live in an overly convenient world. Everything is handed to us. It’s all supposed to be safe, secure, and a world where, as one blogger put it, “unicorns ride rainbows and poop Skittles.” A few years ago, I offered to sell a coworker an extra Leatherman multi-tool that I had. She said, “…No. Somebody might take it from me and stab me with it.” That’s irrational. Someone can take your pen and stab you with it. Do you keep it in your desk drawer where it is handy, or is it in a double-key locked vault with security needed to escort you to it, so you can jot down something, and then escort you back to your desk? This coworker also said that people shouldn’t have anything that is potentially dangerous. This is the same person who when she leaves work, goes and gets in a car, one of the most dangerous tools on the planet. But I guess that doesn’t count. It’s like people want a painless, padded cell existence with a Novocaine and Morphine sprinkler system in the ceiling? You’re going to get hurt. You’ll fall down. Skinned knees, scrapes, cuts, and broken bones are part of being alive. You don’t stay in doors and never come out. You just try to not hurt yourself that way again.
I’ve cut myself many times with knives. It took a while for me to realize that the problem wasn’t the knife, it was me. It happens whenever I am trying to cut something when I cannot see the blade. It was a lesson I had to learn and it took spilling some blood and using up some Band-Aids to learn it. Avoiding, or refusing to own and use blades isn’t the answer. It’s the stupid. It will hurt you. How many people have gotten cuts in the kitchen, trying to chop food the way it’s done by chefs on television? The words “Don’t try this at home” exist for a reason. That chef is someone who understands all the tools she is working with. Her knives are high quality and very sharp. She’s practiced rapid slicing of foods and has gotten good at it. I remember trying to chop a carrot on a cutting board the way the Asian chef did on his show. I never found the piece that went airborne. Then I had to carefully slice the rest.
If you use it properly, a knife is an amazing tool, and in many situations you’ll be glad to have it. The proper emotions are gratitude and respect, not fear. The gratitude is to the designers and makers, the respect is for what it can do for you, or to you, if you misuse it. It’s something I think everyone should have and know how to use.