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July 05, 2007

10 25 A List of Things Every Adult Should be Able to Do « Social Issues »

Dr. Helen asks, “What kinds of things should an adult be able to do?”

As she says, her question was based on Heinlein's statement:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

Looking at the statement again, I'm fairly sure Heinlein meant it to be random listing of abilities, celebrating the diverse skills any single individual could attain within one lifetime. I don't think he really meant it to be what every adult should be able to do, because why know how to butcher a hog rather than a deer? Why should every human be able to plan an invasion or design a building? That's just silly.

And for what purpose should a human be able to do these things? Dr. Helen's additions (understand/use a gun, swim a reasonable distance, drive a stickshift, use internet/email, give a good backrub) seem to focus in on both social and literal survival. Heinlein does focus on survival somewhat, but the inclusion of being able to write a sonnet and comfort the dying emphasize that survival of the spirit is as important as survival of the body.

So I'll see Dr. Helen's bet, and raise it with a few of my own.

Here are the things I think every adult should be able to do, in no particular order:
1) Play guitar
Guitars are the most flexible, useful, easy-to-learn instruments there are. You can play all styles of music on a guitar. Being relatively light and sturdy, you can take one with you to the top of a mountain, to a party, on a plane, in your car. You can sing along easily while playing. You can play melodies, harmonize with other instruments, or play chordal accompaniment with anyting or anyone. Being able to play provides you an outlet for musical/emotional expression, even if you choose not to use it.
2) Speak a foreign language
This is vital. We are a global community now. Speaking a foreign language not only helps you understand others, but helps you to understand your own language better, as well.
3) change a diaper
4) butcher a large animal
5) sail a ship
I think learning to sail is a skill that may not be necessary to life, but makes life better. And who knows if you might need to sail a homemade raft after civilization collapses? (which is one of the reasons for many of the things on the list. You don't want life to be over just because your society's supports get knocked down)
7) Be able to use both rifle and handgun with reasonable accuracy and safety
8) Drive a stick shift
9) Swim a reasonable distance
10) Plan and balance a budget
11) Build a wall
Understand this deceptively difficult task, and you understand much about safe construction
12) Set a bone, stop the bleeding, clear the airway
13) Comfort both the dying and the family of the dying
14) Take orders, give orders, cooperate, and act alone
15) Analyze a new problem
Logical thinking and analysis is vital to having a successful life.
16) Perform manual labor
Everyone needs to know how to work.
17) Be familiar with all mainstream technologies
18) Cook several complete (tasty) meals
No one should rely on restaurants for nutrition. What's holding me back is I'm not good with vegetable dishes. I can do a few casseroles, and lots of meat dishes, several potato dishes...but not too much on veggies. Usually I just open a can, or bag of frozen stuff and heat 'em up. I don't really count that. Nor do I really count a "Meal in a box" convenience product.
19) Defend yourself from physical, verbal, and emotional attack
20) Take responsibility for bad decisions
Too many people don't, seemingly to the point of pathological inability.
21) Finish a house (I can do many finishing steps, but not all)
Not necessarily vital, but it makes life much easier if you can accomplish various minor repairs around the house. Being able to finish (flooring, minor wiring, painting, trim, etc) gives you most of those skills. Which can save you lots of money.
22) Use needle and thread
From darning socks, to replacing buttons to repairing small holes in clothes, this is a necessary skill; knitting is a good sub-skill.
23) Backpack for at least 6 miles/day for at least 4 days
You have to enjoy wilderness to really understand and enjoy your place on the planet.
24) Navigate through maps, stars, etc
People get lost, and not only end up dying, but put their loved ones through unnecessary anguish. Being able to navigate is a simple fix that prevents that problem.
25) Find water, food, and shelter in the wilderness
Pt II of #24, pretty much.
26) Make mechanical repairs to your car, including changing a tire, changing spark plugs, changing door handles, etc
27) Build a campfire that can be started with only one match
28) Know how to keep things to yourself
29) Keep all promises (corollary: don't promise what you can't deliver)
30) Forgive

Any other suggestions?
Bolded entries are things I cannot yet do.

Posted by Nathan at 09:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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