Are you up to this? July 25, 2011Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
Tags: human adaptability, human nature, human potential, Robert Heinlein quote, self-sufficiency
Our friend Becca sent us the most wonderful quote the other day. It’s from the revered sci-fi author Robert Heinlein, and it says:
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.
Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood agree with the general thrust of this comment, though we have no clue how to conn a ship or program a computer, and Silence thinks the part about cooking a tasty meal comes rather late in the list. We feel passionately that what made humanity great was our aptitude for generalization—look at our hero and blog mentor, the great Benjamin Franklin, or, say Leonardo da Vinci—and that our downfall as a species has been our increasing pigeonholing into extremely specialized functions.
We might add a facility with writing and communicating and a knowledge of the world, both natural and historical, and world affairs to Mr. Heinlein’s list, for how can you understand alien cultures if you don’t understand the diversity of cultures here on Earth? We would also add the ability to grow a ripe tomato, or any produce, to Mr. Heinlein’s list, and to harvest, preserve, and enjoy it in every season.
What’s your ultimate short list?