Tuesday, May 05, 2020

101 Things #101 - Finale

101 Things I Refuse To Do Before I Die has reached the end of the road. It all began last September with an exploration of the "must-do" bucket-list ideas of others, and a liberal sprinkling of my own prejudices. I simply wrote about things I did not wish to do and saw no reason to feel guilty about not doing.

What seems to have emerged is that we can define ourselves as much by what we turn our backs on as that which we embrace. Just because others think something is worthwhile does not mean that it is or that we should worry that we think this way.

Every one of my preceding pieces has been summarised as as a determination not to do something. Let me now turn the specifics into a single, sweeping generalisation. I am not going to

Do things just because others say I should

or to put it another way, I will most definitely not be a dedicated follower of fashion. An anti-fashionista, founder of the Peoples Front Against Trendiness and the Must-Do Ethos, that's me.

This view is not as obvious as it may sound. I have, on a number of occasions, had salespeople knock at my door to hawk cable TV, driveway cleaning, solar panels or some other service, and they always use the line "Everyone else in your street is having it". Presumably this is effective on others or they would not try it, but it has the reverse effect on me. If everyone else is doing it, and they are doing it because they think everyone else is doing it, then I want out.

I will go on writing about pointless fashions and trends but not in such a structured way. There is not going to be a 101 More Things I Refuse To Even Contemplate in the pipeline. I shall cease trawling the net in search of ideas to scorn, fun though that has been.

I am appreciative of the many who have made this series possible, in particular Bucket List Journey (8 times), Aussie on the Road (6 times) and honourable mentions to Pick Your Goals, LifeListed, Personal Excellence, Huffington Post and Lifelot, each of whom have furnished several memorable notions. It is a great relief to know that I can henceforth ignore these sites with their endless exhortations to do things and the underlying sub-text that those who do not flail about ticking off their BL items are somehow missing out on life.

 It is curious to be writing these lines at a time when so many of the ideas I have been discussing are impossible to do because of the covid-19 lockdown. I cannot prance down the street slapping hands, feeding meters or pretending to be someone I am not. I cannot climb the Eiffel Tower, fly the Vegas red-eye, visit Disney Parks or dine in blacked-out restaurants where I shall proceed to order one of everything on the menu. I need no longer try to dodge morris dancers or to gate-crash weddings. Flash mobs are right out! I shall not go to live in Xinjiang, or as a sheriff in a small American town, nor will I venture into space, see exotic shows in Thailand or visit Graceland. I could still, perhaps, compliment myself in the mirror each day, try to collect 100 toothbrushes (online, naturally) or take up hygge but you know what? I ain't gonna do them either and the fact that in theory I could, makes it all the sweeter that I can still turn my back.


At this juncture I want to insert a brief thought about the mentality behind bucket-lists (and doing stuff because others do). I am not alone in my rejection of the "me-too" mentality. Two excellent articles in support of this view may be found courtesy of that august journal The Wall Street Journal by Joe Queenan and in the equally authoritative The New Yorker by Rebecca Mead.

Queenan comments
Bucket lists too often are an attempt to compensate for not having done things early enough in life that they would have made a difference. They're a shortcut, a make-up exam, a trick. Bucket  list accomplishments are like Fantasy League baseball: a cheap substitute for the real thing

Mead makes a very telling point, using President Obama's hurried visit to Stonehenge in 2014 when he took a break from the NATO summit. The President had a lightning tour of the sight and was heard to say "Knocked it off the bucket list right now". Mead and I are agreed that this goes to the heart of the futility of the bucket-list, of doing something because it is fashionable or because "everybody else is doing it".

You don't "do" Stonehenge by walking once round the stones. You immerse yourself in the landscape. You study the exhibits in the museums and ponder the culture of the people who put so much effort into building a complex of structures stretching for miles, and to which it is known that visitors came from well beyond these shores two and three thousand years before the Romans arrived. And even then you still don't tick it off, because the archaeology is continuing and new information emerges all the time, and there is loads more in the surrounding countryside at other sites. With a site like the Stonehenge Landscape, arguably, you can never tick it off because there will always be more to be learned. For myself, I've been there as a schoolboy and several times since, the most recent being an organised trip led by a specialist and, revealing though this was, it showed how much more there is to discover.


And finally, this entire series could not have been possible without the constant support and critical reviews offered by my Editor. Whether it be nit-picking about neologisms, lip-pursing over long sentences or head-scratching about obscure references, he has always been there for me. Naturally, full responsibility for any errors or omissions that remain are entirely down to him and not in any way my fault, that's why I have an Editor after all.

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