I do not want to go to Machu Picchu. I do not want to stand at the pyramids at dawn with my arms outstretched. I do not want to start a start-up, master Swahili or learn how to solve a Rubik's cube while doing nude yoga in an infinity pool. I just want to get through the day.
Bucket lists have become a thing. A big thing. As far as can I tell, they've become an industry. Google the term "bucket list" and eek! Half the Internet wants to tell you that your life is as aimless as an episode of 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here' if you haven't established a long check list of European tomato-throwing festivals to attend before you die.
Here's the problem with this mentality. Actually, there are four main problems.
The first is that any life ethos based on a Jack Nicholson character is only going to get you into trouble. Did nobody out there see 'The Shining'?
The second problem is the cliched nature of these lists. In one of the great ironies of our time, the more random and wacky people try to make their bucket lists, the more cliched and annoying they end up being. Yeah, great. Grown your own garden and eat only nasturtiums for a week. You special little flower, you.
The third problem with the bucket list concept is what you might call an "experiential materialism". That's a term I thought I made up but I just Googled it and, there you go, it's already a thing. Interestingly, the very first link I clicked said that, yep, collecting experiences makes you happier than accumulating money.
So on that score, there is clearly some merit to bucket lists. Here's the thing, though. There's a kind of hipster commercialism at play here -- as though the more "out there" things you try, the cooler you are.
But guess what, kids? There is not an idealised, actualised, perfectly fulfilled you lurking around the corner if only you could swim with one more marine mammal. In truth, the dolphins and manatees want you to leave them the f--k alone. Too often, bucket lists experiences are Instagrammed narcissism.
But the main thing I hate about bucket lists is the way they embody the death of spontaneity. We live in an age of lists. Like Kramer's coffee table book about coffee tables, there are even lists about how to make better lists.
But at the risk of employing a cliche to debunk the bucket list cliche, were we not always told that life is about the journey, not the destination?
The main thing I hate about bucket lists is the way they embody the death of spontaneity.
The fourth problem with bucket lists is that when you reduce life to a series of things to be checked off, you kind of forget to live it -- and enjoy it -- along the way.
Bucket lists are so often framed as living "your best life". But the best life is rarely the one aimed at, plucked like fruit from a tree, ticked off. It's the one where you embrace the small moments you often didn't see coming.
I went to South America last year, so I was more or less in Machu Picchu's neighbourhood. Did I go there? As mentioned at the top, I did not. Want to know my favourite moment in that intriguing continent (which surprisingly, is just a 12-hour direct flight from Australia)?
It was in a tiny little restaurant in a back street of Rio that magically morphed into a dance floor after dark as the tables were cleared. I snapped a grainy phone pic of the place. I had no idea I wanted to go there, but once there, would rather have been nowhere else.
Now THAT was living. That's what life's about. The sh-t that just happens. The little surprising things. Births and marriages aside, these are life's greatest moments. And the whole bucket list concept should kick the bucket as far as I'm concerned.
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