So, why the fascination? On the surface, that seems a pretty easy question.
For grocery lists, even though we hate grocery shopping we love the list. As we wind our way through the store, we check off the items that have been placed in the cart, and when everything on our list is checked off, we can finally leave. The despair and exasperation we feel as we get to the end of the store and realize there's an items that has not yet been checked off, is nearly unmatched. Fortunately, it's also short-lived as we make a bee-line for the correct aisle, grab the omitted item and finally find ourselves looking at a completely checked-off list. (While this may seem extreme to some of you, it truly reflects how I feel about grocery shopping. My antipathy for this activity is matched only by my husband's antipathy for this same activity -- or else I'd make him do it!)
To-do lists are similar to grocery lists, except that the tasks represented might be good or bad. Repairs around the house - bad. Items to pack in the suitcase for vacation - good. But good, bad or otherwise, when we find ourselves looking at a list with everything checked off, it gives us a sense of satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment. And of course let's not forget about the bucket list, which is the granddaddy of all to-do lists. Although - I'm not quite sure what you're supposed to do once you check off the final item on your bucket list.
These types of 'check-off' lists - whether grocery lists or to-do lists, are so popular, that there's somewhat of a mini-industry that has built up around them. There are note-pads that present typical grocery items - either alphabetical or categorized by store sections. There are note-pads that say 'To-Do' at the top, followed by a bunch of blank space. Both of these items include a whole bunch of boxes just waiting to be checked off!
Besides the 'check-off' lists, there are the compilation lists. The summary lists are particularly prevalent now, at the beginning of one year, as everyone and his brother seems to be interested in summarizing the previous year. A friend of mine pointed out the absurdity of this, pointing out "I was there. I remember." Nonetheless... there are many who actually look forward to these summaries. And of course there are the competitive lists -- Richest people, Most productive businesses, Best educated countries. For me, the compilation lists that are most enjoyable are those that provide odd bits of trivia in the abbreviated format of a list... Things you should know about Scotland; Bizarre Victorian inventions; Different types of teas.
Lists represent organization and tidiness -- which is appealing both to those who are organized and tidy, and those who are not. They represent progress, moving forward.. and a bit of a 'don't look back' sort of attitude. Most of us throw out our completed lists. After all, once all the boxes have been checked off, the lists are no longer of any use.
Oddly enough, when I looked up 'attraction of lists', the result was lists of attractions; I couldn't find anything discussing this attraction to lists. I would think that it was just me, except that there is an abundance - some might say an overabundance - of lists. So perhaps it's just that people only care about the lists, they don't care about the fact that they care about the lists.
Hmmm. This requires further thought, over a nice cup of tea.
What's that you say? I promised you a list?
Well I suppose I did.
Seems a bit redundant, but here you go....