It happens every year once the calendar reaches the point it is at now. I’m referring, of course, to the lists that are published to commemorate the year that is coming to a close and the one that is about to begin. Of the former, the lists are usually along the lines of “Best of” (and in some instances “Worst of”). Of the latter, the lists are usually either predictions or wishes.
The process of putting together these lists can be tedious or inspiring, depending on a variety of factors, principal among them being whether you are the kind of person who loves or hates structure and order in your life. If you are a lover of regimentation, lists are probably a constant in your life, starting with a daily “to-do” list, which may even include steps to be taken to complete each item on the list.
If, on the other hand, you absolutely hate the very idea of being anything but spontaneous, if you are too “creative” or, perhaps, too much in touch with your unique qualities as a human being, you may eschew any compilations of things of any kind in list form as a restriction on your freedom to be the person you are constantly becoming. The very thought of lists might seem pedestrian or trivial if you’re that kind of a person.
I have always been a list-maker and a list-hater. Let me explain.
I’m very concerned about history generally and my history more particularly. Therefore, I am constantly seeking ways to record or identify the history I am part of. That concern naturally leads to the creation of lists, lists that identify events in my life and in the things that have made my life what it is.
Those lists can include such things as the best presidents in my lifetime, the most momentous national and international events of the last hundred years (because events that occurred before I was born might well have had an impact on my life), the best movies I’ve ever seen, or the best sporting events I’ve witnessed.
Preparing those kinds of lists comes to me naturally. It’s almost as if I need to make them or keep them to feel complete. Many never get written out. They just come to me, almost as if they need to exist and find a home in my brain. So, with that kind of thought-process constantly at work, if it isn’t a process I love, at least it’s something I’m consumed by.
On the other hand, I detest the kind of lists that impose obligations on me or that seem to set a pre-determined course for my life. I like to think (maybe “delude myself into believing” would be the better way to describe it) that I have control over my life, and, simplistic though I admit it is, lists of any kind that suggest I don’t have control are anathema to me. Thus, I rarely make “to-do” lists and have no use for lists that predict what my life (or the life of my world) will be like in the short or long term.
This aversion has led me to eschew the kind of lists that some of my friends have benefitted greatly from. For example, a magazine article entitled, “Seven Things that Successful People Do” would never get a minute of my time. I’d far rather read an article that was entitled, “The Seven Most Successful People of the Last Century,” even though the substance of both articles might very much be the same. Just don’t ask me to create or read a list that tells me that my life must follow a pattern other than one I create for myself.
Now, of course, I’m engaging in a little literary license here, because I don’t spend any great amount of time creating lists of a historical nature and I do lead a highly structured and regimented life that, implicitly at least, results from the creation of lists that dictate my actions. So let’s say that the need I have to make lists of one kind and the antipathy I have for lists of another are not so severe as to render me unduly nerdy on the one hand or to make me into a bohemian on the other.
But, since I mentioned a few lists I would happily create, and because some of you who are taking the time to read this little essay are probably curious (being list-lovers yourselves), here are a few short lists:
Best presidents in my lifetime (from Harry Truman to Barack Obama) –
John F. Kennedy
George H.W. Bush
This list is subject to change depending on the perspective I bring to it. In truth, I regard every president’s administration in my lifetime to have been significantly flawed. These five had fewer flaws and presided over more good years or did less to damage the country in the long run.
Most momentous national and international events of the last hundred years –
The invention of the computer
The Viet Nam War
Hiroshima and Nagasaki
The Third Reich
None of these needs much explanation. I can’t imagine life without the invention of the computer (and everything it has made possible). The rest are too real to require further comment, even years after they occurred.
The best movies I’ve ever seen –
2001: A Space Odyssey
I have many favorite films, but over the years, these are the most meaningful works of cinematic art I have seen.
The best sporting events I have witnessed –
Game 1, 1988 World Series
Game 7, 1955 World Series
Dennis Martinez’ Perfect Game (July 28, 1991)
Of course, they are all baseball events and they all concerned the Dodgers. The first ended with Kirk Gibson’s home run; the second was the winning game of the only World Series the Brooklyn Dodgers ever won; and the third was the only perfect game I ever saw in person.
Happy New Year, everyone.