Heinlein's Humans

Robert Heinlein famously said:

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 spirit of the myriad “25 random facts” and such, I’m going to suggest that we see how close some of us are to Heinlein’s ideal. Here’s the quote again, with things I’ve actually done in bold, things I think I could do in italics, and things I can’t do in regular type:

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.

I must admit, I’ve never actually butchered a hog, but I’ve seen it done, and I’ve butchered both deer and squirrel, and I’ve dissected everything from a small pig to rats and mice. So I think I could handle that.  I’m helping to design a library right now, so I think that counts. And yes, I’ve shoveled manure in my time…cleaning out barn stalls.

So I still need to figure out how to conn a ship, fight efficiently, and die gallantly. I’m pretty sure I could plan an invasion, but don’t really want to find out. I’ve never built a wall, but I understand basic physics, so I think I’m good there. I’ve taken umpteen first aid classes, and had extensive physiology/anatomy classes, so setting a bone could be done, I’m pretty sure. Fighting and dying are both not really something I want to try out. But that’s not too bad a reckoning, right?

4 thoughts on “Heinlein's Humans

  1. My husband and one of our friends got a kick out of this, and Justin also agrees that if you can butcher a deer, you can do just about any animal. Drew has nominated me to be the one to set bones in the family. If we count the two of us as one human, we think Heinlein would be pleased with our progress. 🙂

  2. I wonder if planning a defense against the zombie invasion counts as planning an invasion…let’s say yes. I think I’ll consider myself a Heinleinian success (he didn’t say that the computer programming had to be done well or efficiently). Although I don’t plan to die gallantly – I plan to die screaming with my sword still hacking at the enemy 🙂

    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.

  3. I grew up in FL and my grandfather would butcher gophers. Not the furry kind, the kind that lives in a shell. Not a pretty sight.

    Hogs are pretty big and mean.

    I would change butcher a hog to hunt or catch one’s own food and able to start a fire from flint and stone.

  4. I’ve changed diapers, Planned an invasion” if raids in iraq count” butcher a hog” and many other farm animals”, conn a ship” if any boat counts”, 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 ” made it back from 2 tours in iraq and still alive so guess that counts”, die gallantly”haven’t tried this one but sure when my time comes I can handle it”. So I think I have it all covered.

Comments are closed.