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Useful And Fantastic: Waste No Abilities

...Most people do not exercise half the abilities that are latent within them. They may even realize that they are not fully living, not being fully what they could be...

Valerie Yule offers practical advice on fending off senility.

We are advised to exercise our brains to avoid going senile - what the Scots call 'dottled'. But the exercise recommended is to play chess or crosswords. This seems a waste. Why not also exercise your brain by thinking? Thinking about ideas, about how to do things better, and thinking up social innovations to solve problems.

Play the Wishing Game.

1. Think of something that needs fixing.
2. Then think of ideas to solve the problem.
You can include magic wishes.
3. Then think of what could go wrong so it wouldn't work.
4. So the next step is-how to stop the bastards.
5. Then you can try to do something about it.

This is extra Waste-Nothing, because you can play it when you can't sleep-and you then either solve problems or go to sleep. Or play at any boring time.

It is a waste of any ability if you cannot use it to do what you like or what needs to be done. Most people do not exercise half the abilities that are latent within them. They may even realize that they are not fully living, not being fully what they could be. But of course, if you try to do everything at once, you will be all over the place.

A problem of living in a competitive society instead of a cooperative one is that too often people are taught too early that they don't have as much ability as somebody else. All those people who think they are no good at maths, or they are dyslexic or can't do housework-ah! there's a reason for not being good at something. 'But if I learn to read I'll have to do hard work!' explained an eight-year-old believed to be dyslexic.

Societies can waste abilities. Everybody has different abilities. Everybody using their own special abilities makes for a jolly good society-including turning handicaps to assets. We need people who enjoy going down caves-and mines; who enjoy daredevil climbing-on scaffolding; who like loud noises-for clattering factories; who like pottering-to care for children in 'child-time' without haste or hassles; who like doing nothing much-to stand and serve and guard; who enjoy danger, or who are good with messes, or can patiently be obsessed with numbers, or like going at the speed of light. There are useful ways to gamble, if you like taking risks 'For everything there is a season, and a time and a place for everything', observed the Preacher in Ecclesiastes several thousand years ago. For every sort of person there is a useful job.

It can be a problem when the useful job for some people may not be readily available. The Berserker Warrior so valued in the past can be hard to place today when he is a Personality Disorder. People do not always recognize the Genius, who can be a great nuisance-or may not be a genius at all.

However, the variety of people is as needed in society as variety of life is needed in the planet-sociodiversity and biodiversity. It is a problem when psychiatrists try to make everybody 'normal' meaning like everybody else. Instead, cultivate their own special abilities to the benefit of everybody.

So some schools cultivate sociodiversity. A school that encourages brilliance is likely to have a variety of brilliance as everybody flowers with their own talents. There is a class 'role-playing game' where every child is allocated a role they would like, and every week or term children change their roles around. For example, the Class Clown, the Brainy Scientist, the Reporter, Gardener, Poet, Handyman, Inventor, Housekeeper, Monitor, Captain, Speechmaker, Singer, Artist, Sewer, Entrepreneur, Janitor, Librarian, Cook, Salvager, Nurse, Thinker, Explorer, Calligrapher, Crafter, Musician, Tutor, Carer, Social Reformer, Reciter, Compere, Computer-whiz, Mechanic, Builder, Story-teller, Collector, Odd Hobbyist, Reader, Statistician, Editor . . .

So over the weeks, they experience discovering all sorts of talents, and experience having those talents valued-not just being good at sport or academic. So they need not be the class nuisance or the class bully or the class nong.

What about the abilities to do nothing? There is a difference between the real meanings of Pastime (Pass time) and Recreation (Re-creation). It is a good ability to also be able to do nothing, when there is a time and a season to do nothing.

Suppose everybody used all their abilities and were all Good Citizens? Could a democracy stand everybody protesting about what they wanted to protest about, everybody pestering their politicians, everybody writing letters? I think we have the ability to have a democracy that can benefit even by having everybody exercising their ability to be citizens.

Think that one out. It will stop you going senile, even if it drives you crazy.

Valerie Yule

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