Robert Heinlein, in his book Time Enough For Love, suggests a list of skills everyone should know,
“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.”
In the planning process for our first book The Urban Homestead we used a big piece of taped together paper to come up with our version of Heinlein’s skill set. Most of the subjects on that paper, everything from vegetable gardening to cargo bikes, ended up in the book or in our second book Making It. Now, we don’t expect everyone to master all the things in our books, but it doesn’t hurt to have a cursory knowledge of, say, greywater plumbing or compost pile construction, even if you live in a Manhattan apartment. You never know when you might have to roast a pig in a pit (that will be in our next book!).
One of my favorite list of things one should know is contained in the old Whole Earth Catalog. A few weeks ago I was leafing through my copy of the WEC and realized that I had done most of the things in it (not necessarily well, mind you). Well, everything except natural child birth, large puppets and mime.
I believe we’re entering the time of the self-taught generalist. But, looking at Heinlein’s list, I’ve got a lot of things I have yet to master. Which leads me to ask you, our dear readers, what topics and skills you’re interested in learning. What’s on that skill to-do list? Leave some comments!
Thanks to the Urban Survival Podcast for that Heinlein quote.