Leave the Lists Behind


Have you noticed that the lists have taken over the world? You will find them everywhere now; in newspapers, magazines and blogs. Numbered lists with the top 10 (or 5 or 37) reasons to use salt on your food or a list of 8 (or 15 or 24) ways to maximize your nighttime sleep, no matter what topic is being addressed, writers have been able to distill their information to a numbered, bulleted, short-snippet list of what to do and how to do it in order to make all of our lives that much better. 

I know I’m a sucker for lists. I gravitate towards those lists as if they ensure I will improve my life in the 2.89 minutes that it takes for me to read it. In fact, I know that the list will help. Because no one would write a list without being knowledgeable and purposeful, right?  Because whomever wrote the list I am reading has taken all of the research and wisdom and their own life experience and decided to distill it all so that those carefully-chosen words on the list that I am reading are the most important ones that I need to know. And, because it is on a list; it is logical to assume that it is easy to consume what I am ready and, therefore, will be easily applied to my life. And, if for any reason, the application of list items to real life does not go as smoothly as I hope, I can always refer back to a specifically-numbered item on said list and beat myself up at my incompetence in enacting the advice of the writer and expert.

Okay, friends. Reality check. This life that we live does not fit neatly into lists. We keep lists and love lists and use lists and refer to lists because they seem to be a neat and tidy way to corral all of our chaos and insanity into bitable – and chewable – pieces of our worlds. We can conquer a list. After all, it is broken down into teeny-tiny pieces. 1 − 2 − 3 − 4 − 5. Easy, right? No, not so much. And the more we look to these lists as the deity-deemed solution to all issues in our world, the more likely we will find ourselves frustrated and disappointed and confused and pissed off when all these neat-and-tidy bulleted and numbered lists do not solve every problem that we face.

I am not calling for a moratorium on all lists. I could not face life without my shopping list, gotta-do-sometime-in-the-next-4-months list, crochet-pattern-wish-list, holiday card address list, spring semester follow-up list and the many, MANY more lists that populate my world; often written on random pieces of paper or post-its, usually in shades of purple and green (I am Filipino, what can I say?) and often with random doodles and hashtag art decorating the edges. Lists have a place in our worlds and our lives. But lists cannot and should not  be expected to be the guiding force in how we make our lives better, well-lived or more-greatly-appreciated. News stories should not be written in default-list-format because the general public is more accustomed to reading ideas in bulleted or numbered fashion rather than reading actual paragraphs, applying critical thought and gleaning ideas and drawing their own conclusions.

We should not be allowing ourselves to become dumber and dependent upon lists. I do not want to think in number and bullets and I do not want to surround myself by people who only think in numbers and bullets. I want full and vibrant thoughts. Complicated and complex. Sometimes confusing and provocative. I want to have to ask questions so that I understand better. I want to require my brain to work to figure out what is important to this writer or what really inspires that artist. I want my educators and my son’s teachers to expect that we can and will think and form sentences and paragraphs and stories in our minds so that we can share who we are and what we think and why we feel the way we feel.

Lists have their place in our lives. Usually, they best serve us when we need reminders or quick summaries. Lists should not be the primary vehicle that informs us of our world or provoke us into thinking about how and why we wish to improve or change our lives. So, today, instead of opening the link of the “Top Ten Ways to Save Your Family Time” or the “37 Reasons That the Affordable Care Act is Working” or any other number of information pieces that have been dumbed-down to list format, search out information written in (preferably) complete sentences and structured paragraphs. Stretch your brain a little and give yourself the time to ponder what is written and what you think. I believe that you will find the time and effort will be worth it … it is, after all, number seven on my list of eight ways to develop mental acuity.



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