Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 16, No. 1, 2017
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
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David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nick Catalano
Lynda Renée
Gary Olson
Jordan Adler
Howard Richler
Nancy Snipper
Andrew Hlavacek
Daniel Charchuk
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Serge Gamache
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Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
Emanuel Pordes
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  Noam Chomsky
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Robert Fisk
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Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Navi Pillay
Ernesto Zedillo
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward




All our final decisions are made
in a state of mind
that is not going to last.

One for whom a pebble has value
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

By 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 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.

Thanks 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.

Generally, 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.

So much for the bucket-list.

No 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.

There 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.

The 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.

Let 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).

Letting 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.

Among the non-negotiables we should let-go of as we get older are (1) maintaining relationships with envious and vindictive family and friends that want us to fail (2) allowing ourselves to be eaten up by the success of others (3) convincing ourselves that we can shop our way to happiness and meaningful existence (4) doing what others expect of us instead of what we expect of ourselves.

Pre-supposing 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.

In 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.

If 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?

What 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?


I love the title. Thank you.

Tracy Robinson
Nobody decides for you when you do not feel compelled by the situation. Let a lil' light in.
Rename? Fuck no! Take a deep breath . . .Exhale . . . then grin . . . did that, now I done this.
The first point on my fuck-it list will be Arts & Opinion. That's getting smart.

also by Robert J. Lewis:
Abstract Art or Artifice II
Old People
Beware the Cherry-Picker
Once Were Animal
Islam is Smarter Than the West
Islam Divided by Two
Pedophiling Innocence
Grappling with Revenge
Hit Me With That Music
The Sinking of the Friendship
Om: The Great Escape
Actor on a Hot Tin Roof
Being & Self-Consciousness
Giacometti: A Line in the Wilderness
The Jazz Solo
Chat Rooms & Infidels
Music Fatigue
Understanding Rape
Have Idea Will Travel
Bikini Jihad
The Reader Feedback Manifesto
Caste the First Stone
Let's Get Cultured
Being & Baggage
Robert Mapplethorpe
The Eclectic Switch

Philosophical Time
What is Beauty?
In Defense of Heidegger

Hijackers, Hookers and Paradise Now
Death Wish 7 Billion
My Gypsy Wife Tonight
On the Origins of Love & Hate
Divine Right and the Unrevolted Masses
Cycle Hype or Genotype
The Genocide Ge














Arts & Opinion, a bi-monthly, is archived in the Library and Archives Canada.
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