Manly Skills and the Art of Manliness

“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.” _Robert Heinlein

More on Heinlein competence

Besides The Arts Mechanical, another useful dark-enlightenment-linked website with a practical orientation, to add to a Dangerous Child’s reading list, is The Art of Manliness. A recent entry to that website is titled: “MacGyver Manhood and the Art of Masculine Improvisation.”

MacGyver is stuck in the attic of a house. Bad guys are coming up the stairs and about to bust into the room. The only way out is through a window, but it’s a ways up, and angry Doberman Pinschers await below. MacGyver searches through the attic and grabs a bottle of cleaning fluid, mothballs, a telescope, a pulley, a rope, and a metal rod. He hastily assembles a rocket-propelled harpoon from the seemingly random materials, which he then uses to create a zip line to a tree outside. Just as the bad guys breach the room, he glides away to safety. __

Examples of manly improvisation are provided from mountain tribes on Crete to combat to jazz. The author goes on to demonstrate the benefits of an “improvisational mindset” in the day to day planning and operations of being a man. An interesting introduction to the benefits of improvisational skill.

Improvisation is a type of quick-witted creativity, a rich and rapid responsiveness to one’s surroundings in the face of a limited set of resources. In many settings, the best improviser gets the girl, stays alive, and prospers to leave many descendants.

Improvisation is not exactly the same thing as competence, but competent people are often best prepared to improvise. So building competence often comes first, and don’t forget to throw in a good portion of preparation for a range of situations.

Improvisation is not strictly speaking a “manly skill” (women need it too!), but it is certainly a skill set that men and Dangerous Children should develop.

Learning to improvise (in acting)

Learning jazz improvisation

And so on. Each area of improv expertise seems to demand specialised skills and competence training. If you want to “stay alive past the coming battle,” best keep yourself and your weapons in top shape.

Manly Skills

We have covered many aspects of “manly skills” on the Al Fin blogs over the past 10 years, often in categories such as “competence” and “Dangerous Child.” Many other websites have attempted to use the internet to teach manly skills. Among them:

and so on.

The biggest problem with learning “manly skills” is that there are so many of them, and they fall across a large number of categories. Some of them are best practised in the shop, others on the highway, yet more in the wilderness, and a large number in polite company. It seems that if one fails to begin to learn such skills in early childhood, or to proceed to learn them through adolescence and lifelong adulthood, one cannot possibly learn them all — and still have time to make a living, raise a family, and help guide the community around him.

That is probably true to some extent, but if one is a “quick study,” and a good improviser, he should be able to fake it reasonably well from time to time. In the end, there are few good substitutes for skilled training and preparation, in terms of the ability to quickly and effectively solve problems.

It is never too late to have a Dangerous Childhood.

A short list of manly skills from the original Al Fin blog

Creativity is dangerous

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2 Responses to Manly Skills and the Art of Manliness

  1. Robert Evans says:

    Novelist and African hunter Robert Ruark, who grew up in coastal North Carolina, had his own list similar to that of Heinlein, and written long before:

    I could throw a cast net, shoot a gun, row a boat, call a turkey, build a duck blind, tong an oyster, train a puppy, stand a deer, bait a turkey blind (illegal), call the turkey to the blind, cast in the surf, pitch a tent, make a bed out of pine needles, follow a coonhound, stand a watch on a fishing boat, skin anything that had to be skun, scale a fish, dig a clam, build a cave, draw a picture, isolate edible mushrooms from the poisonous toadstools, pole a boat, identify all the trees and most of the flowers and berries, get along with the colored folks, and also practice a rude kind of game conservation. (from The Old Man and the Boy).

    • alfin2101 says:

      Yes. A rural upbringing once assured a person of a wide range of skills for living off the wilderness or living off the land. Hunting, trapping, fishing, farming, foraging, navigating the wilds, surviving away from permanent shelter, etc.

      Heinlein’s list is a bit broader and oriented more toward human communities. The Dangerous Child list is significantly more comprehensive than a wilderness, a ranch/farm, a combat, everyday homestead, or other individual list of necessary skills.

      That is because a Dangerous Child must learn to prosper in wilderness or in cities, alone or among millions, in either primitive or high tech circumstances, in war or in peace, under either impoverished or radically abundant regimes. It requires a type of flexibility, resilience, and “anti-fragility” that is rare in modern times. An early start is recommended

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