Forgot top 10s and five must-sees - the only listicle Ross Bentley is focusing on is his ‘stuff-it list’
Modern life is blighted by an over-abundance of lists.
Wherever you look, you’ll find one. A quick search on the internet and I’m shown a link to Forbes’ 400 Richest Americans, a tribute entitled ‘David Bowie’s 40 Greatest Songs’ and an insidious (but worryingly tempting) article called ‘Ten Child Movie Stars Who Became Broken Adults.’
All this indexing and ranking of everything is getting to me. I’m suffering, you could say, from listeria poisoning.
But where does this fascination with inventories of this kind come from? I have several theories.
Maybe, it’s a response to the demands of our modern existence where we haven’t got time to read feature length articles and instead prefer to graze on at-a-glance lists.
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Perhaps, it’s linked to the take-up of the internet and our dwindling attention spans where people want bite-sized pieces of information before moving onto the next thing.
Possibly, it’s a mark of our need to control and catalogue the world. Whereas during Victorian times great men like Charles Darwin strived to record the different types of dung beetle known to man, today in these celebrity-obsessed times this compulsion stretches to putting Macaulay Culkin’s fall from grace into some kind of context.
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For me the most insidious lists are the ones that make you feel dissatisfied with your lot.
On my shelf is a book entitled: ‘1,000 Places To See Before You Die,’ a weighty tome, given as a gift by my lovely sister-in-law who wanted to inspire my wife and me with travel ideas at a time when we were expecting our first child.
But as I read about the wonders of a balloon safari over the Masai Mara or the delights of sailing the Grenadines, inspiration was not the over-riding emotion.
What welled up in me was a tremendous feeling of discontentment; a sense that my life was somehow lacking because I hadn’t climbed Kilimanjaro, or explored the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde.
Maybe I took it all too personally but I also felt uncomfortable with the way that the Earth’s great places and natural wonders had been reduced to a checklist for fans of Judith Chalmers.
I feel the same way about the concept of a Bucket List. Derived from the expression ‘to kick the bucket,’ your Bucket List is a list of things you want to do before you die, be it join the hoards trekking to Machu Picchu or, the classic, swim with dolphins (a vastly over-rated experience, I can tell you - I’ve tried it and it was genuinely rubbish!).
What happens if you kick the proverbial bucket before you complete your list? Has your time on this planet been worthless?
Are your last thoughts filled with regret because you never got to take a raft along the Mekong Delta or learnt to speak Chinese?
In the face of this list mania, I’ve taken a stand.
My answer to all this self-imposed restlessness is to do away with any thought of a Bucket List and instead compile what I’ve called a Stuff-it List.
The Stuff-it List is an anti-list made up of stuff I no longer want to do. I’m binning many of those goals and ambitions I’ve held for years but, for various reasons, have never got round to.
Rather than piling on the pressure and giving myself an unrealistic list of things to achieve, I’m unburdening yours truly and lightening the load. Why kid yourself and carry around a feeling of being unfulfilled for years?
Just accept you aren’t going to accomplish half the things you say you are and you’ll be much happier for it.