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Are you up to this? July 25, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , , ,

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?


1. Frater Zee of New Jerusalem - July 25, 2011

The Ultimate Short List –> ONE item:

A human needs to know how to (quickly) LEARN anything. This means:

a) Know Thy Self (your own style of learning, your blind spots).

b) Know where to look, and/or who to ask.

This reduces Heinlein’s list of 21 (colorful & idiosyncratic) specifics to a timeless general formula that works in any situation.

Squirrels just wanna have fun, but humans are designed to specialize in generalization. Cheers.

Wise words, Frater Zee!

2. WhiteFang - July 26, 2011

Hmmm. Believe it or not, at first thought, I can’t even begin to work out a shortlist… not because there’s too many things to add, but the exact opposite: there are none at all!

So finally I would say, all a human being should be able to do, is to introspect himself/herself and find who they truly are (in the deeper sense).

Everything else follows.

And what’s left is gravy. v.v

So true, WhiteFang!!!

3. Becca - August 12, 2011

our bee mentor took it upon himself to add “raise honeybees” to this list!

Good one, Becca! We definitely have “rent hives for our fruit trees” on our list!

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