We watched The Bucket List the other night — quite a good flick. Actually, in several ways, the movie is the product of a group of aging Baby-Boomers coming to terms with their own mortality. The title and the premise revolves around the list of things that one wants to do before one dies… or “kicks the bucket,” rather. In this case, it’s not “one”, but two — Carter (Morgan Freeman) and Edward (Jack Nicholson).
Without delving into the realm of spoilers, Carter and Edward are gazing out at a beautiful vista in Egypt, surveying the pyramids. Carter, whose command of trivia is super-human, tells Edward that the ancient Egyptians believed that when they come to the gates of paradise in the afterlife, they will be asked two questions, the answers to which will determine whether or not they are admitted. The first is, “Have you found joy in your life?” Carter poses the question to Edward, and the viewer can’t help but review the question in his/her own mind. The second question turns out to be similar: “Have you brought joy to others in your life?” This one proves a bit more of a challenge, and again, the viewer involuntarily takes inventory as Edward makes his explanation to Carter.
It seems to me that reflecting on the question naturally turns one’s thoughts to one’s children, and to one’s family. Although I don’t subscribe to the ancient Egyptian view of the afterlife, living with these two questions in mind would not be a bad practice at all.
I don’t think it’s simply that I’m at the tail end of the boomer set, but I’m thinking a bit more about mortality and how one spends one’s days. It’s a difficult question that perhaps reveals divergent philosophies. Do you take time as you go along, spending as you need to gain enjoyment on the road — or do you save up in the hopes of an early retirement when you will spend your money, be at leisure, and enjoy yourself? We probably all are aware of anecdotes concerning people who saved up and looked forward to a retirement they never got or couldn’t enjoy due to health or the death of a spouse or whatever. We say that we need to live our moments to the fullest, never taking our health or the time we have for granted… but in reality, most of us are still waiting for a future opportunity to live this way rather than doing so in the present.
The Bucket List reminded me of these themes. I don’t have a “bucket list” of my own — I really never thought about this in much specifics, but browsing people’s 43 Things lists reveals a lot of goals or ambitions that many people would be likely to put on a “bucket list.”
I’m curious… has anyone ever made a list like this? Was it helpful or not? I presume that the idea is at least in part to motivate one toward actually taking steps to doing the things on your list — but does it? And what of my suggestion that we continue to remind ourselves to take advantage of the moment but rarely ever do, always putting it off for an uncertain future? Is this accurate, and if so, how do we explain the fact we consciously don’t take steps to live the way we say we want to despite continually reminding ourselves about it?