Thursday, January 23, 2014

(Not) My Bucket List

The online dictionary defines 'bucket list' as a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying.    Recently, I put up a post about lists, and bucket lists are essentially the Mother of all to-do lists.  Obviously the name comes from the phrase 'kick the bucket'.  But although the phrase 'kick the bucket' has been in use since the late 1700's, it seems that the phrase 'bucket list' did not make its way into our vocabulary, until some time around 2005 or 2006.  Even so, it didn't come into popular usage until after the  Jack Nicholson/Morgan Freeman movie called "The Bucket List" came out in 2007.  Now, a few short years later, the phrase is used on popular TV shows like Glee and NCIS, the morning news shows have all done segments on bucket lists, and there's even a Bucket List Foundation.

Some of the bucket-list items in "The Bucket List" movie were skydiving, flying over the North Pole, and riding a motorcycle on the Great Wall of China.  But the lists of the main characters also included "laugh til I cry", and "help a complete stranger for the good".  Items can include the bizarre, the expensive, the dangerous, and the feel-good sorts of activities.  Clearly, a bucket list is a very personal thing, there is no 'one size fits all'.  Apparently, even the act of creating such a list can vary greatly from one person to another.  I found websites that suggested you should come up with your own list by just sitting down and writing, without stopping to think, and websites that said you should give a lot of serious thought and consideration to what you put on your list.  I even found a website that will generate ideas for your bucket list, in case you come up blank.

Now - I tend to be somewhat of a goal-oriented person, and I make lots and lots of lists, but I've never been attracted to the notion of a bucket list.  For one thing, I'm not really sure what qualifies to be on the bucket list.  How important does it have to be?  I mean, sure I'd like to go to Australia, and I'd like to learn another language, and I'd like to have a hot fudge sundae for breakfast...  but it wouldn't be the end of the world if none of those things happen. I'm not sure there's anything that is so important to me that I'd die, if I didn't do it -- which is kind of ironic since we're talking about a bucket list.

But even so, that's a trivial problem. You see, it seems to me that there is a fundamental problem in the concept of such a list ... the problem of timing.    
What happens if you don't finish your list, before you die?  In the Jack Nicholson/Morgan Freeman movie, {SPOILER ALERT} when Morgan Freeman dies, Jack continues to work his way through Morgan's list.  And when Jack dies, his assistant checks off the last item. Hmm, having someone else finish off your bucket list for you.  That hardly seems right.  After all, it's your list, not theirs.  

But even if you don't consider that a problem, there's the flip side of the coin.  What happens if you finish your list... and you're not yet dead?  Now what?  You've accomplished everything you set out to do, you no longer have a raison d'etre.  Are you just supposed to sit there twiddling your thumbs, waiting to kick the bucket?  What if thumb-twiddling wasn't on your list?

And what's the likelihood of kicking the bucket, right after you finish the final item on your bucket list? Well, I suppose if you put something like 'jump off of a really tall building without wearing a parachute and without a trampoline down below' as your final item,  the likelihood might be pretty high... but I don't think that's the sort of thing  people normally put on their list.

So at least for me, the issue of timing is an insurmountable problem in the whole concept of a bucket list.

However, I realize that not everyone is like me.  And I also realize that there may be some of you out there who would, indeed, like to create something more than just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill to-do list. So I want to help.  Here, is a link I found to a Bucket List generator.  But before you rush over there, let me tell you what you're in for. I clicked on the generator a few times, just to see what it would come up with, and here's some of what I found:  
Gamble at Monte Carlo  (hmmm, no...I'm not much of a gambler)
Learn to sculpt  (this isn't going to happen.  I'm as artistic as a one-armed squirrel)
Learn how to ice skate (tried that already.  results were disastrous)
Join a choir  (have you HEARD me sing?)
Swim across the English Channel  (Oh dear, I could drown in the bathtub if I wasn't careful)
Quit smoking  (while this is an admirable goal, I don't smoke now... so do I have to start?)

So while I like goals, both big and small, both lofty and silly, I guess I'm just not a bucket-list sort of person.  I am, however, a tea sort of person, and I hear the kettle whistling.  While you contemplate your own bucket list (or not!), I think I'll make a nice cup of tea.

1 comment:

  1. What? You've never had a hot fudge sundae for breakfast? C'mon, live on the edge!