We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Tuesday, October 29. 2013
Your Editor, in youth, with some thoughts about basic life skills
My baby Sis, on the right, sent me this pic she found of us messing around with boats many years ago. I was helping her tune her Laser's rigging. We both remain happy to mess with boats of any sort, anytime. Sail or power. We have a feel for water. In adolescence, this one particular sis of mine was a great sailboat racer (Lasers, as in photo) but always scowling. Tough competitor. Happily, she outgrew the scowl, hasn't really scowled for years, has three cool, scowling kids now, and a distinguished career.
Lightnings were my racing boat. Our threesome of young fellows even got into Sports Illustrated, with my cuz as skipper. We took strategic risks, often, to break from the pack and we studied the winds, currents, and tides. Wonderful boats for learning seamanship, and seaworthy in most weather including those nasty summer squalls which always added excitement and danger.
I consider basic seamanship to be a fundamental adult life skill, along with swimming, shooting, tennis, land navigation, quoting Shakespeare and the Bible, catching and cleaning a fish, how to start a fire, play an instrument, budgeting, fundamental principles of cooking, handling tractors on hills, riding a horse, public speaking, log splitting, using correct grammar when called for, handling tools, appropriate grooming, dressing, and manners including table manners; pleasing social conversation, making basic judgements about other people, making a Martini, and a few other things - most of which which I have not yet perfected but there is still time.
I suppose every person has his own idea about the Basic Life Skills needed to negotiate the world effectively. I know some who would even include Golf!
The youth need parents to teach these things - or to pay to have them taught. It's called parenting, and it can't be outsourced. It's a serious enterprise.
Posted by Bird Dog in Our Essays, The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 15:00 | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)
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I'd include golf before tennis; I appreciate that the ball rarely comes firing back at me in golf unless I hit a tree. I would add Chesterton to the quoteable list... and growing food as well as putting it up for the winter.
Oh, and add being able to locate Maggie's Farm on the intertube... natch!
Minor and emergency repairs of cars would be high on my list. I once walked up behind a car on the street that I had observed a young man trying to start and he was having no luck. I could smell the gas from the tailpipe. I walked to the drivers window and told him I could help him if he would just do exactly what I asked. He agreed. I said; step on the gas and keep the gas pedal down until the car starts even if I have him stop crankng the engine. Then turn the engine over for no more then 5-10 seconds at a time with 20-30 seconds wait in between starting attempts. It took three tries then the engine started. Simple as that but I had no doubt he was well on the way to killing the battery when I walked up. I have stopped to help people fix flats and one time I did a young lady the favor of asking her politely but urgently to get away from her car and onto the shoulder of the road and within a minute while we waited for a tow truck a 18 wheeler sideswiped the car right where she insisted on standing while calling her dad. I have jump started dozens of cars with jumper cables I always carry and more then a few times by push starting the car with the help of my wife and a bystander or two. Simple things.
I'm with GWTW on car repair. Basic stuff - change spark plugs, change oil, change a tire, jump the car, but MOST IMPORTANTLY - KNOW how to rock the car and get out of a frozen patch on a winter's day. Taught my son when he got his license and his friends were amazed when they got stuck. He told them not to push the car (very dangerous especially on a hill), and showed them how to rock it free. It never fails me, though it's easier if you have a manual transmission.
I'd toss in know how to play poker (or bridge, or spades or hearts - a strategic card game of some kind), and throw darts (301, 501, cricket or if you must - baseball, though it's not a real game as far as I'm concerned).
I play golf badly. I play tennis passably. I prefer tennis simply because it's a better work out and you don't have to spend 4 hours on the court.
By the way, I've seen the scowl before. On my own kids and myself at roughly the same age(s).
Given the faded nature of the picture and the style of clothing, I'm guessing 1977-1982. Pretty much when I was doing most of my scowling.
The ability to read and follow instructions is a must. Thanks to the Navy, I can read a book and can (and have done) minor and major auto repair, plumbing and electrical repairs. That has been so personally satisfying, having the knowledge that I can figure out if I can fix it or not and not getting cheated by fast talkers.
From the master, but your list moves in the same vein.
“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.”
To which I would add: resolve a conflict, fell a tree, speak a second language (badly will do), handle a fishtailing car and dance...mostly dance.
One other addition is more an insight than a skill but important nonetheless. Remember always that life is a joke; it's how we keep the angels laughing.
Make fire, sew, tan hides, star navigation, and understand young people.
I'm a big golf nut and give it credit for teaching me many things. When you first start the ball goes crooked. You take lessons (so far 30 years worth) and you learn that to make the ball go up, you hit down on it. To make it go left, you swing to the right and vice versa. To hit it further you relax and swing easier. In other words your first diagnosis of what your doing wrong is probably off by 180 degrees. Try that as a life lesson. Of course when you get those beginning shots straightened out, you need to learn how to curve them when you want to.
The most important thing I learned is how to control my emotions. Nothing is more aggravating than golf. You need to learn how to control your temper of course, but you also need to think clearly, plan ahead, forget your mistakes, and snap in and out of concentration at will. In other words - mental discipline. I was going to write "it's not a game for kids", but maybe it is.
Wonderful boats, Lightnings. Sailed them when I was a teenager, along with Sunfish and Lasers (in Wellfleet Harbor come to think of it!). Later graduated to various flavors of sailboards, Stars, J24s, and countless other one-design and offshore boats..
Just sailing, let alone racing, entails a wide range of skills. Improvization is a key one.
I'm not so big on worrying about mastery of a sport. However - and this is doubtless influenced by my 30+ years in Scouting and having been brought up by a mother who spent her formative years on a farm during the Depression and who had brothers and sons but neither sisters nor daughters - I would add the following:
Wash and dry clothing and bedding, with appropriate treatment for different kinds of fabrics including wool
Iron (where appropriate) and mend clothing.
Wash pans, dishes, cooking and cooking prep surfaces, walls and floors.
Use a compass; but be able to find North any time day or night without one. GPSs dont' count.
Basic First Aid, at least to the level expected of a First Class Boy Scout.
Math at least through Algebra II and Trignometry.
How to walk 5 miles without destroying your feet or shoes in the process.
Identify the constituent elements of the Federal Government and your State and local governments. Know who represents your area in each. Know how the membership of each one obtains and retains that membership. Understand their basic operating principles.
Given that I sing in two choirs, I'll give a pass from playing an instrument to anyone who can read music to the point that you are able to vocally reproduce from it a simple melody.
Some of us do not live anywhere near a body of water upon which we could operate a sailboat - or can handle the expense if we could. But anyone should be able to at least handle a rowboat and a canoe.
Bird dog is the one with the scowl in the photograph, but with all the responsibilities he has defined for himself he best learn to make a good martini before it is too late.