Do you have a bucket list? I don’t, and I feel guilty about that. From what I read and hear, anyone with normal desires is expected to have a bucket list – an array of things he/she wants to do before dying.
A movie called “The Bucket List” came out in 2007. It starred Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson as two terminally ill men assigned to the same hospital room. They became friends, and gradually revealed the things they’d like to do before the Man in the Red Nightshirt appeared. The film told how well, or poorly, they lived out their dreams.
The movie triggered a lot of commentary about bucket lists – how to compose one, how to plan its execution, and – to a large degree – why each of us should ideally harbor goals and dreams that we’d like to realize in our remaining years. As I thought about my own bucket list, I was appalled that I don’t have one. Never did, never will.
The next question is: why not? What’s wrong with you, Driver? Aren’t you alive? Don’t you yearn for excitement, drama, travel, achievement, meeting famous people, and all that other good stuff? Think of all the thrills you could have before you croak. Etc, etc.
A possible answer: Most of the important and enjoyable events of my life have come to me. I didn’t have to chase many of them. And when I did, they often turned into dust.
I’ve steered clear of bucket lists because (A) I’m a drifter, (B) I’m lazy, and (C) I tend to be easily satisfied. Anybody else out there guilty of those sins? I’ll bet there are.
To build a decent bucket list you’ve got to be a take-charge sort of guy. Once you write down what you’d like to achieve in your final years, you must get to work. Plan. Hustle. Focus. Find the time, energy and money necessary to climb Mount Everest, swim the English Channel or whatever. I start to get weary just thinking about those activities. My approach: wait patiently by the side of the road and then grab whatever appealing adventure comes by.
Obviously, top-flight bucket lists are not for the lazy. But lazy persons can still make their own lists. If your life-long desire is to reach the top of Mount Washington but you lack the mojo to climb a short-flight of stairs, just drive up to New Hampshire and get aboard the cog railway that takes Mount Washington visitors to the weather station at the peak.
If, like me, you’re easily satisfied, you’re wise not to tell anyone. Your boss might fire you. Your teammates might kick you off the soccer squad. You’ll never get accepted by the college of your choice. In today’s gung-ho, proactive world, contentment is a mortal enemy. The primary goal is to be No. 1 in whatever you do. Today’s golden watchword: passion! To win the respect of your peers, you must have at least one dominant passion in your life. Several passions are even better. If you are not gripped by passion, there’s something wrong with you. If you don’t have a bucket list of things that you passionately desire to do, see or be, you’re not really alive.
I’m overstating things, of course. I suspect that if we lined up a thousand randomly-selected citizens, more than half of them would not have assembled a bucket list. Most people are too busy coping with today’s demands. Within half a mile of where you’re sitting as you read these words, I bet there are several dozen people whose bucket list would be headed by “To find enough food to feed my family.” These folks maintain an “empty bucket” list.
On the other hand, a bucket list need not be a compilation of super-human stunts such as winning an Oscar or listening to an “American Idol” contestant who doesn’t whine when she sings. How about such ordinary things as passing an entire day without hearing someone say “oh my Gawd!” or “awesome”? Or meeting six strangers on the street who actually smile and say hello to you? Or living for 48 hours without ingesting a single milligram of sugar in any form? These things are unlikely to happen, but they’re still possible.
In closing, a reminder of where the “bucket list” came from. It stems from the ancient expression “to kick the bucket,” i.e., to die by suicide after hanging a noose from the ceiling while standing on a bucket that you kicked away at the appropriate moment. I guess the English language chooses whatever sayings – however gruesome – seem to fit.