The Compete Human Being
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Since the dawn of civilization, humans have been specializing their skills. Instead of one individual being master to every major skill in a cultural group, we became content to allow others to take care of some of our needs. With the development of cities, we had people who spent their entire lives mastering the intricacies of organization and logistics and who depended on others to provide them with food. Craftsmen in turn provided farmers with tools that they couldn’t make for themselves.
As our civilization developed, we as individuals moved more and more towards specialization. Whereas in the past, even an aristocrat might have a basic understanding of the processes of growing food by virtue of the fact that he owned farmland, nowadays food production has become an extremely technical trade. The vast majority of people in the developed world do not grow their own food, nor do they really have a realistic grasp of the process of eating something they produce themselves.
I’m also surprised at how many people do not have a realistic grasp of the process of exercising their own bodies. I am a trainer, so I benefit from the fact that people are willing to pay me to tell them how to exercise, but it seems to me that a human being should know basic self-care. Exercise isn’t that mystical. The fitness industry makes it seem that way, so we think we have to pay a professional to tell us how to do pushups. The result is that we never develop a self-assessment ability and can’t self-correct our own pushups. We instead come to rely entirely on feedback from other people.
A Little Bit of Everything
I have always believed in the value of a wide and shallow—rather than a narrow and deep—skill set. I feel that I have been well served by having a little bit of experience in a lot of different things. I did the college academic thing, but I also got really good at fitness and exercise. I flew planes for a bit, learned how to SCUBA dive, can drive a car and a pickup truck, have lived in cities and used public transportation, and have spent enough time in airports to know some of the tricks of frequent fliers. I can cook for myself, am comfortable eating at cheap places, and know the etiquette for eating at the really fancy places. I can camp. I study martial arts to know how to fight. I study Parkour to know how to run away. I study psychology to know how to avoid trouble in the first place. I spent a bit of time dating around, but have also had several long-term, committed relationships. I know how to teach myself, know how to critically analyze a book or an article, and know how to craft my own arguments.
I like to think that my life is pretty holistic, but I know that there are still a lot of holes to fill. I’ve never grown my own food, and I am still pretty clueless when it comes to metalwork and computer programming. I only mention these because they are things I’d like to learn. I know the basic concepts.
The Adaptable Warrior
My concept of a Warrior has always been someone with a very wide skill set. I have to be able to handle any situation that comes my way. I don’t have to be a master of whatever I deal with, but I have to be good enough that I can get by.
One of my favorite heroes exemplifies this approach very well. Link, the hero of the Legend of Zelda series of video games, is notable for his fighting prowess, his ability to solve wicked puzzles, and his courage and compassion. He is as handy with a sword as he is with a fishing rod, and plays a mean ocarina. I was always impressed by the fact that, compared to many other adventure heroes, Link had the ability to apply such a wide range of skills to any given situation. So often, an adventure hero simply destroys every obstacle in his path, or the game conveniently makes violence a universal solution.
Master the Essentials
Obviously, there is a lot to master in life. To keep things simple, I only ask of myself that I be able to deal with the essentials. I should be able to get myself anywhere I need to be, I should be able to feed myself healthy, tasty food, provide myself with friends and contribute to my social groups, and I should know how my body and mind work on a basic level. I should also be capable of grasping and analyzing whatever situations I find myself in, follow whatever I read, and hold my own in an argument.
Outside of those general requirements, I pretty much let myself do what I enjoy.