I get slightly agitated – and, I admit, irritated – when I hear people talking about what’s on their ‘bucket list’. One dictionary humorously defines it as a ‘list of things to do before you die, like visiting the Grand Canyon, falling in love or falling into the Grand Canyon’! It adds that it derives from that euphemism for dying, ‘kicking the bucket’ – its origin unclear.
So why get agitated? Because there is hole in my bucket list. In fact, I don’t even have a bucket! There’s no virtue in this – I just don’t have one. People do tend to talk more about bucket lists as they near or enter retirement. It comes from a growing awareness that time is slowly slipping away, that the deaths of contemporaries – friends and even those in the public eye - take you unawares. Best to get things done while you have the energy or can get the insurance. I had a notice this week from my travel insurers to say that they can no longer automatically renew my insurance – we need to ‘consult’ it seems!
Bucket lists often consist of travelling to exotic destinations or doing slightly risky things, like that D-Day veteran in his mid 90s last week parachuted again into Normandy. Amazing! Other people tend to take the safer option of going on a cruise! Some suggest you are freer to take greater risks now that you have less to lose. I have no doubt that many people do experience great joy, exhilaration, a sense of achievement or surmounting their fears by ticking things off their bucket list. So if you have one don’t let me persuade you to throw it away!
However, it is interesting that most bucket lists seem to feature going, doing, having. Rather fewer mention being. We could commit to rushing around less, to seeking greater inner peace, to thinking less defensively and more generously, This week one of Helen’s gym mates quoted the phrase ‘time is for slaves’. He thought it was from a Noel Coward play. I did a search for it. Couldn’t find it anywhere! First up on Google was an article called ‘Are we slaves to time?’ It was published in The Himalayan Times…no, me neither! It was written by a Nepali who is amazed at how driven by time and expectations their western trekker friends are.
Alarming reports on the state of the environment this week mean that we – and our children and grandchildren - may have to rethink our bucket lists. We’re going to have to fly less, travel less, heat our homes differently, reduce the number of air miles our food has to travel to our supermarket shelves if our precious planet is to survive in anything like its current condition. News of trade wars between China, the USA, the EU, the UK do not encourage hope.
So it is time ‘to live more simply that others may simply live’. The words of Mahatma Gandhi. Environmentalists remind us to ‘think globally, act locally’.
Ours has been a rather spoiled generation. Maybe we thought we could have it all. Clearly we can’t. Time for a new bucket?