THE FUCK-IT LIST
ROBERT J. LEWIS
All our final decisions
in a state of mind
that is not going to last.
One for whom a pebble
must be surrounded by treasures
wherever he goes.
Desiring this man's
gift and that man's scope
I know longer strive to strive
towards such things.
T. S. Eliot
the middle of the current century, 34% of the Chinese population
will be over 60 years old, up from 12% in 2010. In 25 years,
there will be more than 10 million Canadians over 65. Notwithstanding
the cultural and linguistic differences that exist between nations
and cultures, the twilighters share a common purpose on two
key fronts: they are keenly focused on the ever diminishing
hourglass which, in theory, results in wiser decision making
in respect to health and well-being. And secondly, in a better
now than later approach, and relative to personal health and
wealth, they feel compelled to put together a list of things
they would like to do before checking out.
to a film of the same title staring Morgan Freeman and Jack
Nicholson, this list has come to be known as “the bucket-list,”
I lucked into the film during a return flight to Montreal after
a visit with my very frail and hurting mother who is sadly looking
forward to ticking-off an item that has recently appeared on
her bucket-list: to get on with her next life.
the bucket-list refers to a list of things we want or have always
wanted to do before final departure. With a nod to self-gratification
and self-indulgence, the twin pillars of the pleasure principle,
the list appeals to the voluptuous, hedonistic side of our natures:
indulging in a luxury cruise, telling someone to do it to themselves
in the ear, posting a youtube video of ourselves magnanimously
handing out 50 dollar bills to the homeless, getting physical
with someone 40 years younger than the wife. For many, the list
is both the reason and opportunity to act upon long deferred
pleasures, and is a poignant reminder that while almost all
of Freud’s theories have been discredited, his pleasure
principle has withstood all challenges, just as Homo sapiens
continues to do the principle’s best work despite laudatory
(fatuous) dissertations on the intrinsic value of discipline
and self-denial – indispensable to character-building
-- but which, as predicted by the intention behaviour gap, collapse
when confronted with the promise of pleasure.
much for the bucket-list.
less important, even though we never hear about it, is the fuck-it
list, comprised of all those things and activities that, in
our manifest wisdom as we grow older, we should forget about,
let go, drop, no longer give a damn about. But for the exceptional
few who are wise before their time, for whom the birthing of
this list comes early in life (late 30s, early 40s), most of
us have to wait until our later years to realize that the meaning
and coherence of our lives depend on such a list. Of course
there are those for whom several lifetimes aren’t time
enough to even conceive of it -- a bonfire of vanities if you
will, especially for those who have convinced themselves that
the “I’m going to treat myself” contrivance
is the just reward of old age over and above the objections
of the defenseless body, a sure sign the body's owner harbours
an unconscious death wish.
is a compelling case to be made that one is only as wise as
his fuck-it list, that there is no wisdom to be had in the absence
of conceiving of and then prioritizing the relationship between
one's imminent demise and the existential understanding that
certain undertakings in life are more crucial than others. The
fuck-it list is the precious offspring of this relationship.
Without it one is vulnerable, held hostage to an endless soft
parade of enticements and ephemerals all subject to the law
of diminishing returns, which triggers even more self-indulgence
in a losing effort to counter the law’s necessity. At
some point, the hole one has dug is so deep it isn’t even
recognized for what it is since it has begun to feel like home,
and in an atmosphere calculated to induce collective catharsis,
everyone in the hole is partying with a little help from everyone
else while turning a blind eye to the fact that everyone is
also dying with everyone’s help.
fuck-it list -- which, over and above my objections, readers
may decide to rename -- functions as a sieve, allowing to pass
only that which affirms the life fantastic. It is an initiative,
disguised as an invitation, that challenges the individual to
distinguish between real versus apparent value (appearances),
and makes him responsible for growing the relationship between
authenticity and self-hood.
us hypothesize 30-year-old Betty, who is struggling to make
ends meet and resolves to make do with a Monday through Friday
five changes of clothing until they wear out. She has decided
it is no longer essential to her life to keep up with the sartorial
protocols established by the ethos of consumption. Her 55-year-old
mother on the other hand continues to spend $5,000 a year on
clothes her husband can’t afford because she feels that
the meaning of her life is slipping away in proportion to the
declining interest men are taking in her looks. Since the daughter
has already begun her fuck-it list, she is indisputably wiser
than her (insert Good Fellows expletive) mother despite
the latter's head start. From the husband’s perspective,
his wife’s physical decline and shopping obsession are
a mixed blessing: he is relieved that fewer men are gawking
at her but she is spending more of his precious savings. In
an ironic twist, his situation might require that the first
item on both his bucket and fuck-it lists reads the same (Luigi,
I need a favour).
go of things that don’t matter is easier said than done.
Every human journey is littered with best-intentions. In the
aggregate, we are a people insufficiently shamed by the fact
that for the most part we are unable to act upon that which
we know is right. Exempting the saints among us, every fuck-it
list is guilt-edged.
the non-negotiables we should let-go of as we get older are
maintaining relationships with envious and vindictive family
and friends that want us to fail; allowing ourselves to be eaten
up by the success of others, convincing ourselves that we can
shop our way to happiness and meaningful existence, and doing
what others expect of us instead of what we expect of ourselves.
a cause and effect relationship between becoming one’s
self and the fuck-it list, why is one more likely to bridge
the gap through the study of philosophy and not psychology?
Philosophy encourages us to see ourselves as we are (the not-so-good,
bad and ugly) in order to identify what we would like to change,
while psychology dedicates itself to getting us to like ourselves
as we are, rejecting change as an aspect of growth. By conflating
(confusing) self-love with self-esteem, psychology, as it is
practiced today, has become the designated
enabler of both relativism and nihilism.
the advance that it engenders, the fuck-it list is more of a
method than a list of things we should desist from doing or
wanting to do. It presupposes an attitude or corrective mechanism
that gives form to the kind of thinking that produces the citizen
philosopher king for whom value and the meaning of life derive
directly from being self-situated between being and nothingness,
a positioning that engages the discrepancy between appearances
and the real, as well as the criteria that prioritizes their
emerging claims and distinctions.
we grant that each individual is a representative of his species
as it concerns the eternal conflict between human nature and
reason, where the latter has been no match against the former,
do we discern by the fact that the species and planet are in
peril that the fuck-it list has not been given its due, and
that we – from our systems of governance to the election
of our values -- are all responsible for this remiss?
stature must we grant human nature in order for the fuck-it
list to be summoned as a necessary influence in the affairs,
large and small, of mankind? Is the fuck-it list just any list,
or is it the list of lists that seeks to restore to their original
preciosity freedoms that have undergone significant devaluation
since the decline of metaphysics and the ascension of materialism?
And if the list should turn out to be the same for everyone,
who should decide what radical interventions will be required
that best serve the king of the beasts?