December 17, 2004

The Real Life List: Things Not Likely to Make the 1000 Things List

No sooner had I posted the item below than a reader noted in the Comments on Dear Seth, The First Thing to Know Is to "Enable Comments!" -- "Apparently the ethereal Seth neither eats, sleeps, nor braves the elements, since his lists don't include such red-state skills as cook dinner, make the bed, or wash your clothes. Are all our thinkers being raised by wolves these days?"

A fair question to which the answer, I suppose, is, "No, those who think that they're thinkers were probably raised by parents expecting the advent of ovine avialtion before the Second Coming." Looking over Seth's list and the one's that he's plucked out of his trackbacks, I'm seeing a slight trend towards the real world, but only as far as "The Real World via MTV."

All of which brought to mind the famous quote by Robert Heinlein in Time Enough for Love

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. - RobertHeinlein
It seems to me that the items on this particular list should be among the first given to children during their formative years and, with the exception of the last, none should be graduated from high school without demonstrating proven abilities in each of them.

Are there others? I think it is the height of hubris to go for 1,000 unless, like Seth Godin, you're planning on picking other's brains to help you make a tidy little PDF book for free.

How many abilities should any person have in order to get through life in a reasonable manner?

Here, at least, comments are OPEN.

Posted by Vanderleun at December 17, 2004 2:42 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

I have a vague recollection of another list of things any high school grad should be able to do. R. A. Lafferty? Education of the Camiroi? I'm reaching back more than thirty years here.

Posted by: Dave Schuler at December 17, 2004 3:31 PM

Porcine perhaps Gerard? No more the flight able
but certainly less sheepish.

Posted by: Steel Turman at December 17, 2004 7:38 PM

Ah, you might think so, but then you would miss the deep Monty Python reference:

City Gent
Oh, jolly good too. (surveys field; he looks puzzled) I say, those are sheep aren't they?


City Gent
Yes, yes of course, I thought why are they up in the trees?

A fair question and one that in recent weeks has been much on my mind. It's my considered opinion that they're nesting.

City Gent


City Gent
Like birds?

Ar. Exactly. Birds is the key to the whole problem. It's my belief that these sheep are laborin' under the misapprehension that they're birds. Observe their behavior. Take for a start the sheeps' tendency to 'op about the field on their back legs. (off-screen baa-ing) Now witness their attempts to fly from tree to tree. Notice that they do not so much fly as...plummet. (sound of sheep plummeting) Observe for example that ewe in that oak tree. She is clearly trying to teach her lamb to fly. (baaaaaa...thump) Talk about the blind leading the blind.

City Gent
But why do they think they're birds?

Another fair question. One thing is for sure; a sheep is not a creature of the air. They have enormous difficulty in the comparatively simple act of perchin'. (crash) As you see. As for flight, its body is totally unadapted to the problems of aviation. Trouble is, sheep are very dim. Once they get an idea in their heads, there's no shifting it.

City Gent
But where did they get the idea from?

From Harold. He's that sheep there over under the elm. He's that most dangerous of animals, a clever sheep. He's the ring-leader. He has realized that a sheep's life consists of standing around for a few months and then being eaten. And that's a depressing prospect for an ambitious sheep. He's patently hit on the idea of escape.

City Gent
Well why don't you just get rid of Harold?

Because of the enormous commercial possibilities should he succeed.

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at December 17, 2004 8:16 PM

My mother's trio:

She, of course, could do none of the three, and had a pretty good life. But all three should be on the list.

Posted by: Grumpy Old Man at December 17, 2004 8:38 PM

A few more off the top of my head:
- Drive a stick
- Assemble a tent
- Tend a garden
- Compete with honor
- Win graciously
- Lose graciously
- Respect the elderly, protect the young, and love your neighbor

Posted by: LRFD at December 17, 2004 9:04 PM

Gerard, if you haven't yet encountered them, treat yourself to R. A. Lafferty's classic short stories "Primary Education Among The Camiroi" and "Polity And The Custom Of The Camiroi." You'll find a kindred spirit, and a good brace of belly laughs.


Posted by: Francis W. Porretto at December 18, 2004 3:18 AM

Here are some others I would add:

Play a musical instrument
Speak a minimum of two languages
Make a speech
Write a book (or at least a report)

Posted by: John at December 18, 2004 4:45 AM

Ou est le baggage?
Ou est les voyageurs?

Posted by: DTLV at December 18, 2004 9:43 AM

My two cents: One should know how to

Posted by: DrPat at December 18, 2004 8:33 PM

DrPat, have you actually visited a library lately? They don't have card indexes any more. Library catalogs are electronic databases now, and most of them are online.

Posted by: Librarian's husband at December 19, 2004 9:06 PM

Card indexes may be passe at many public libraries in the US, but are still in use in some - and I still run into them when trying to access research materials, maps, and other printed matter not generally used by the reading public. If you don't know how to use one, you're stuck with whatever the librarian or conservator gives you. (No offense to your spouse, Librarian's husband.)

And I do use the spell-checker on my computer. I still think it's appropriate to be able to write coherently without it!

But then, I also have, and know how to use, a slide rule, even though I invariably use the computer to do extended calculations nowadays.

Posted by: DrPat at December 20, 2004 9:09 AM

As a specialist of a very minor sort, I must bug you about the lack of a space in the line

" - RobertHeinlein "

Nitpicking is the foundation of primate society.

Posted by: Hank Roberts at December 22, 2004 4:53 PM