Taylor: One-size-fits-all doesn’t fit anything

Complex issues demand complex resolutions. One-size solutions just don't cut it.

I know how to boil an egg. I can fry bacon with minimal supervision. I can even reheat macaroni and cheese in the microwave.

Obviously, I am not a gourmet chef.

The other day, I opened my wife’s spice drawer. What a rainbow of smells! What a symphony of delectable names, all arranged in alphabetical order: basil, cayenne, chili, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, coriander, curry, dill, garlic, ginger, mace, marjoram, onion, oregano, paprika, sage, tarragon, turmeric.

Each one has its own distinct taste and smell, its own particular use in a particular recipe.

I have a great suspicion of one-size-fits-all solutions for anything. It doesn’t work with pantyhose, and it doesn’t work with life.

No cook would ever suggest that a single spice will suit every recipe, be it sage or cinnamon. Every dish requires—nay, demands—its own unique blend of herbs and spices for its special flavour.

I’m not claiming that the chosen spices are defined by some kind of divine edict. Innovation is always possible. Our daughter has an intuitive understanding of what each spice does. “This casserole could use a pinch of paprika,” she’ll say. She’s usually right.

But outside of the kitchen, we resort too often to those one-size-fits-all (OSFA) answers.

Anything related to economics relies on perpetual growth. Anything else implies failure.

In politics, the Holy Grail is a majority that can ride roughshod over the self-interests of minorities.

In scientific circles, research must produce tangible results. Preferably, commercially marketable results. But sometimes it’s just as important to prove that something doesn’t work.

Massive doses of vitamin C, or vitamin D, or probiotic yogurt, attempt to impose an OSFA treatment on vastly different diseases.

Religion has its own OSFAs. The solution to everything, from physical abuse to substance addiction to embezzlement, is to turn your life over to Jesus. Or Krishna. Or whoever.

Various branches of Christianity established their own narrow gates. You need the right kind of conversion experience, or of baptism. You must accept the authority of a particular person or creed or confession. You should speak with the right kind of tongues, or use the right theological terminology.

Bumper stickers that proclaim “Christ is the answer” make me wonder, “What was the question?”

Life is far more complicated than a cooking recipe. We wouldn’t use the same recipe for squash soup as we would for Chateaubriand, or the same spices for a Bengal curry as for an alfredo sauce.

So why the appeal of a simplistic solution for everything?

I suspect it means that most of us are about as ignorant about ethics as I am about haute cuisine.

Of course, sometimes a black-and-white decision is necessary. A friend mocks the idea of a referee applying “situation ethics” in a Monday night football game.

But I suggest that it’s equally ludicrous to expect a whistle-tootin’ Jesus—or any other guru figure—to flag a five-yard penalty in family quarrels, financial finagles, or medical controversies. Complex situations simply don’t lend themselves to simple answers.

A good bouillabaisse demands more culinary sensitivity than toasting a slice of bread.