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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Things Every Man (and Woman) Should Know/Do/Be

I wrote on this subject once before when I came across Men's Journal magazine's list of 60 things every man should do before croaking. At least 80% of the shit on their list could be accomplished with a credit card and about two weeks out of your life. I suppose they would suggest that with the rest of your life you should go shopping for the silly clothes they hawk in their piece-of-shit magazine. Esquire published a similar list. It was Esquire's attempt at being wise and thought-provoking but it came across as fatuous, smug, and intelligence-insulting—basically Esquire's editorial policy in a nutshell.

I came across another Esquire list of things every man should know how to do that was just as stupid. At least five of them had to do with gambling or playing cards. I'd rather learn how to knit than learn how to play craps or poker. What the fuck is it with gambling that has such a hold on the attention of youth today? Just about every kid I know under 30 plays blackjack or poker on line, sports betting is like an epidemic, and why so many people people think that Las Vegas is the modern equivalent of Lourdes is baffling to me.

Another thing men should know how to do, according to the Esquire list, is be loyal to a brand. What the fuck? That is something that a man should know? Yet another thing the author feels is important enough to make the list is the ability to tell a joke. He then goes on to tell one of the lamest jokes I've ever read. If you gave a chimpanzee a lump of poop and a George Bush figurine, the monkey could tell a decent joke. He would still be a chimp—both the monkey and our president.

I'll just have to make my own list.

I don't think there is any difference in what a man should know and what a woman should know. For the purposes of this essay I use the word “man” to mean Homo Sapiens. I think you'll find my list to be wonderfully democratic and inexpensive. If anyone disagrees with any of my suggestions, I'd like to know why. If you'd like to add to the list, let me know.

1) Know a bit about where we came from, in scientific terms. Evolution is the most amazing story in the history of human knowledge. We no longer have to rely on the ridiculous accounts of our ancestry provided by religious superstition. If you don't know anything about evolution, or reject it, you aren't really a modern man at all. It's fine to be religious but don't be ignorant, and please don't be willfully so. Evolution is no more a theory than gravity or rocket propulsion.

2) Know a general outline of human history with approximate dates. At least know something about human history pertinent to your own ancestry. I am of European heritage therefore I should know about the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Dark Ages, the Renaissance, and on to the present era. Without a basic grasp of history you are just spinning through space.

3) Master at least one language and be able to write a decent letter in that language. Writing is at the heart and soul of communication, contrary to popular belief which favors videos or mp3's or yapping on the phone.

4) Have enough knowledge about at least one thing so that you can teach it to others or write a book on the subject. This is the essence of civilization; the ability to pass stuff on to others.

5) See the world, or at least some of it. I have traveled woefully little in my own life. What I don't see of the world before I die I'm quite sure I will regret not visiting. I won't regret seeing any part of it although I may regret staying too long in any one spot. I have loved many things about every place I have ever lived.

6) If you don't already like kids and dogs, learn how. Kids and dogs make your life better, and this is coming from someone who has neither. I just borrow other people's dogs and kids. I think that your talent for charming kids and dogs says a lot about your character, or lack of it. I'm almost always available to babysit or walk your damn dog.

7) Get in really good shape at least once in your life, just to see how great it feels. Define for yourself what it means to be in great shape. Ignore the popular culture ideal of physical perfection because it's mostly a lie (steroids, fake jugs, etc.) and completely unobtainable for most people.

8) Know how to make music of some kind or another, sing, play an instrument (even the drums). This is a basic human need and you need to feed it. No one is saying that you have to be good at it.

9) Get to know the neighbors. You live right next door, say hello. This may sound silly or corny but it's sad how often people live next to someone without so much as exchanging civilities. Living in crowded urban areas has made me more neighborly, believe it or not. Loneliness is preventable.

10) Don't ever say that you don't have time to do the things in life you love. Instead, rearrange your priorities. Don't tell me that you can't afford to travel when you are driving a new car. Tell me you don't really value travel as much as owning a new car and I will believe you.

11) Don't be stingy with love. Spend it like a drunk on payday, I promise that you won't run out or over-draw on your account.

12) Be creative, not a critic. Someone said that no one has ever built a statue to honor a critic.

13) Form your own opinions on important subjects. If you can't, at least borrow the opinions of truly wise people. Rush Limbaugh doesn't have an ounce of wisdom in all of his 300 pounds. Learn to tell the difference between news and opinion. When in doubt, go to the source.

14) Know how to dance, and I mean dancing with real steps, not just hopping around at a disco like someone on fire. I could certainly improve but I know a few basic steps of salsa and I don't look or feel foolish doing them.

15) Learn to live with less. This means drive less, consume less, throw out less, use less water, use less everything. The sooner we all start, the better off we will be. And don't forget to pat yourself on the back for doing it—no one else will. Materialist minimalism does have its own rewards.

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