Thursday, July 25, 2013

On Bucket Lists, the Meaning of Contentment, and Daydreaming

This is a portion of what was a knit and crochet projects list
I, at one point, wanted to work through. Epic fail.
I recently watched the Rob Reiner-directed movie Bucket List. Released in late 2007/early 2008, it focuses on two cancer patients (Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman) and their adventures attempting to cross off experiences on a list of must-do's before they die.
I did not see this movie in the theater when it was originally released; however,"bucket list" is now in the popular vernacular because of it. The basic concept isn't really all that new - philosophers have been interested in the good life, and how to achieve it, since the beginning of time. Long before Rob Reiner's take on it, I used to carry a list of 10 things I wanted to do before I died. I also had written mine on lined, yellow paper, just like Morgan Freeman's character did in his hospital bed (there's just something so, I don't know, official, about a yellow, lined pad of paper). Some of the things on my list I've accomplished; some I now have no desire to see to completion; others I'll probably still complete. I think this is rather de rigeur, as my point of view has changed over time.
On the Bucket List's dvd, there's an extra segment from the movie's writer, Justin Zackham, about the how and why of bucket lists, and his concept of why someone creates such a list in the first place: because they are not content. I could not disagree more with this. Crossing things off my list isn't about contentment - if it were, then I'd be in some serious hot water, since regrets can't be undone minus a magic djinni, and undoing them definitely isn't on my list. I think we must all live with at least some level of regret. I can learn from my mistakes, live with greater knowledge and awareness, but regrets are inevitable and make contentment possible.
And that has very little to do with a bucket list.
While I didn't speak with him, I'm pretty certain this
South African wasn't thinking about a bucket list while
he was attempting to catch something to eat that day.
Additionally, I think most people in western, industrialized nations are already fairly content, although capitalism would have us believe otherwise. Actual bucket lists are uniquely the product of relatively well-educated, well-fed, well-housed and clothed individuals who have the time on their hands to actually daydream about such things. And let me state for the record: I'm one of those well-educated, well-fed, well-housed and clothed individuals. Thank goodness for daydreaming! Imagination leads to curiosity, and deep curiosity will hold me in good stead for, like, well, as long as I'm living this life.

And no bucket list for this man, just a wish to have a
hospital closer than three hours away (and yes, I did ask).
Finally, a confession (well, ok, two confessions): I actually lost my bucket list several years ago, and I'm not all that upset about it. My recent foray with knit and crochet "bucket" lists has shown me that I am not, at this point, a good list person. Lists are limiting. And lists lead inevitably to comparisons, which leads to my other confession: I was actually fairly pleased that some things that made it onto the movie characters' list I had already experienced, no list required. And of course I shouldn't have felt all warm and fuzzy about that, but there you have it.

Which is another reason why no more bucket list for me.

If you had to create a bucket list, what might make the cut?


  1. DD has made a bucket list for her summer holidays :)

  2. I've never made an official bucket list because it always changes. We will be celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary in a few weeks. Very few people in our family make it to 15...and we are still going strong. More than anything, my bucket list revolves around the happiness of my family especially since my dad died. Life is too precious and we must live it to the fullest every day...and not wait to complete that fullness at a later date.

  3. Like Andrea my bucket list changes all the time, if I had one that is! I remember when I was a teenager I wanted to trek the Amazon and conquer the Everest, I still do, but if I were to make a bucket list these probably wont be on it because I will have no regrets if I didn't accomplish them... Life is too short to be making lists all the time, just enjoy it, right here right now ;-)

  4. I do wish to travel across the pond or see somewhere in the States, but I know it'll happen one day so I haven't really created a bucket list. I'd like to learn a foreign language or a sport, but I don't have time. Right now I'm focused on my girls, my upcoming PTA President duties, and my knitting.
    I do kind of have a bucket list for knitting which is mostly designing and hand spinning.

  5. I don't have a bucket list, partially because of the name -- I plan to live for a long time and there is always going to be time to do everything I want to do. On the other hand, after some of the loved ones passing I realize it really doesn't matter what they did or said, enjoy life while it's here. It takes big wisdom to be content.

    Thanks for the shout out on the pink yarn. I did look before I left home and couldn't find the cone :-( We made it to Medford tonight, will continue to head south tomorrow.

  6. The name "bucket list" put a bad taste in my mouth too... although I did enjoy the movie.

    I'm much more of a goal-oriented person. I choose a big goal and smaller goals along the way then work to accomplish them. This may not be the most efficient way but so far, so good. :-)