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July 2008
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What’s on YOUR list?

To Do List

A couple of weeks back, Su was telling me about a book called “Time Enough for Love” by noted Sci-fi author: Robert A. Heinlein.

In this book, the main character Lazarus Long (who as part of a genetics rejuvenation experiment has managed to live over two thousand years) has a conversation, in which he states:-

“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.”

Hmmm…well I can certainly do/have done a fair few of these, though admittedly it’s been awhile since I helped butcher a hog and I’ve yet to conn a ship, design a building or die gallantly (how the hell would you do that anyway?).

I’m not sure I agree with Long’s rationale or particular list, but it did get me thinking about what my own list of things a human should be able to do might include and why…and since my writin’ time is limited (as is your readin’ time), I thought I’d better limit it to 10 items max. You can take the diaper changing and cooking items from long’s list as a given.

  1. Make a fire – without the aid of any form of accelerant. Matches / lighter permissible but that’s it. You should be able to otherwise build a fire from tinder, to kindling, right through to a hearty blaze, at least suitable for cooking.
  2. Build a shelter – With the aid of simple tools such as a knife, hatchet or small saw. It should be strong enough to see you through a bad storm for a couple of days.
  3. Communicate in a non-native language – doesn’t have to be a spoken language – it could just as easily be something like sign language. And you don’t have to direct a light opera or anything…the main criteria here is just to be able to communicate a few simple things (‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘please’, ‘thanks’, ‘what’s for dinner?’, ‘where’s the loo?’ that kind of stuff) in a language that is not your native tongue.
  4. Create something – paint a picture, write a poem or play, carve a piece of furniture, perform a dance, play a musical instrument, program a computer – whatever! Just something that occasionally allows you to make something, no matter how good, bad or intangible it may be.
  5. Perform basic first aid – patch a cut, treat a burn, tie a splint or sling, stop bleeding, perform CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
  6. Do basic maths in your head – add, subtract, multiply and divide basic integer values. How else can you be sure you get the right change in the shop, your tax return is correct or the interest payments on your loans are competitive?
  7. Make something grow – from a lovingly tended Berkshire garden spanning acres, to a window-box full or herbs in a council flat in Brixton. It’s pretty easy and it’s a great feeling. That of course includes your kids.
  8. Look after an animal – know how to properly treat and care for a pet, whatever that may be to you. No matter whether your pet is a horse in a field, or a goldfish in a bowl, the important thing is knowing how to look after the pet and doing it.
  9. Drive a vehicle / perform basic maintenance – applies to everyone who is physically fit and able enough to do so. You should be able to safely change a tyre, check all fluid levels and identify exhaust / emissions issues.
  10. Make a reasoned argument – listen to both sides of a debated issue, and then be able to ask questions, analyse the answers and formulate an informed opinion. Know how to research an issue and how to verify sources. Be able to rationalise a short train of logical thought (be able to think from A to B to C)

…what would your list include?

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2 Comments for: What’s on YOUR list?

  1. Visitor Comment # 1

    How about “Hunt and kill your own meat” – at least if you are not a veggie?

  2. Visitor Comment # 2

    Live, laugh and love

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