As my children continue to sprout, I find myself focused on sharing with them the essential skills which I believe a self-sufficient adult should master. These are low-tech, perennial disciplines which I intend to offer my family. Read through these, and let me know what your essential self-sufficiency skills are. These are not listed in any order of priority.
- Boating: the ability to navigate the waters safely, and both sailing and canoeing… I didn’t realize what a crucial skill set boating had become in my life until I taught canoe classes at my University. Growing up on the water at camp every year and at the beach and bay every Summer I thought everyone knew how, but you can’t get in a boat and just hope to safely plunge your blade in the water or hold a sail in the wind. The first skill to be learned in boating is how to get back to the boat or to the land: in other words, swimming. Oh, and knots. Knot tying is probably one of the most universally useful skills to take from boating.
- Hunting and horseback riding: the ability to locate, track, trap, fish or take down animals and to use every part of the animal who had given its life for one’s family’s life is not for everyone, but for me, critical skill. As my son grows older, I see him in a culture casting the illusion that food comes from nowhere. Than for no other reason than to intimately be connected to the Life Force of another animal, hunting in all its forms, is an essential skill. As an “old fashioned” father, I believe the interaction of horseback riding integrates just as importantly under the same heading.
- Martial arts: though some look at martial arts as purely the discipline of fighting, martial arts are emotional control training, without which fighting is the only option; but once trained becomes a long continuum of force options, including the ability to evade, defuse and outmaneuver potential violence (from those who have not had authentic martial art discipline.) That said, no one wants to fight, but someone must remember how.
- Yoga: the ability to discipline the body through force of will, and to discipline the mind through vital power. Yoga, as a result, involves all forms of exercise, sports and physical games from my perspective. I include in here the eventual ability to meditate, but for children and even most adults, meditation isn’t possible until the body has been harnessed in all of its physical, creative, biochemical and sexual energies. I believe teaching my children yoga, gives them the eventual ability to truly be of service to others, and without which they will be slaves to the whims of their emotions and the drama that they project upon the world.
- Cooking: the ability to safely and effectively prepare nutritious food from “scratch.” This isn’t the microwave, or opening a “tv dinner.” But rather understanding the connection between one’s needs, one’s disposition (in Ayurvedic medicine called one’s “dosha”), spices and foodstuffs. Cooking is the immune system’s frontline defense. If you don’t connect with the preparation of food, I don’t believe you adequately appreciate and as a result completely uptake food into your body.
- Public speaking: though this may seem like an odd essential skill, we are not isolated creatures, but tribal ones. If you want anything done, you need to learn, practice and refine the art of communication, including presentation skills, public debate and even poetry reading and writing (the art of creating an emotional response in a listener.) I believe that public speaking is the a priori skill of leadership; and even someone who wasn’t born a leader, can lead others to safety and abundance with this skill.
- Gardening and gathering: I say gardening and gathering rather than farming to distinguish it from displacing the “natural” setting. Gardening and gathering can be efficiently interwoven with our natural environment without adversely displacing wildlife. And just as essential as hunting and cooking, gardening and gathering lets my children learn how to safely and effectively identify, nurture and collect foodstuffs, spices and medicinal aids.
- Mending and sewing: in an abundant society, this skill tends to be diminished, especially when most people throw away clothes every season. But I believe that your clothing is your 2nd skin, and without understanding how to mend and repair one’s 2nd skin, you don’t fully appreciate and as a result utilize your clothing appropriately, especially when traveling, in outdoor settings or in inclement conditions.
- Carpentry: the ability to fix and repair one’s home. I include in here much more than woodworking, but I do believe that working with wood is a noble art directly connecting you to the fact that you are never “outside” of nature even in the “city.” The endless small and large repairs require one to have the ability to address urgent and aesthetic so that one’s home becomes indistinguishable from nature, rather than the confused distinction we have between “civilization” and “the wild.” Being able to take care of one’s home in an ecologically friendly manner is crucial, and will become more so in the coming years.
- Medical aid: as a lifeguard and pool manager, I found myself using and developing skills I did not anticipate, and then as a martial arts teacher, and then as a father, found the never ending list cuts, bruises and broken bones to require constant readiness. Connected to gathering and cooking, understanding how our food is our medicine, I want my children to have more options than merely getting a doctor’s prescription. Furthermore, I believe my children also need to learn the intangible forces which foster healing within and between people through understanding the energies of healing.
- Orienteering: the ability to navigate the land, like boating is to the water. I believe that without being outside of the “city” one loses touch with our ecology, and how much energy we draw from it. How to integrate with our natural setting gracefully, quietly and efficiently, minimizing our footprint and maximizing our contributions, orienteering is an essential skill. In “the wild,” this includes climbing and rappelling skill sets, but I also believe that this includes “street smarts” since the “city” is yet another setting to be able to “orient.”
What skills would you include here that I did not, and why would you include them for your children?Very Respectfully,Scott Sonnon