The Bucket List: There ARE Limits

bucketAs predicted in these pages, the Baby Boomers have gotten hold of the Bucket List (you can read about it here) and buggered it up beyond all recognition.  The collective bucket is now full and overflowing so ludicrously that 19-year-olds are making Bucket Lists for autumn as if the 2012 Mayan Calendar were coming back for a second crack at us.  There are even websites which will make your Bucket List for you, if you can’t think up any good stuff yourself.  Some Johnny-Come-Latelys have even taken to writing anti-Bucket Lists, just to set themselves apart from the horde/(Herd?)  “I’m never going to eat lima beans” kinda diminishes the spiritual value of confronting mortality, head-on.  So, since the Boomers have once again marketed the wonder and whimsy out of another part of the human experience, it’s time to set up some rules.  Bucket all you want, but there is a limit to what the rest of us can endure.

I’m going to write a novel.  The peak of conceit in our ego driven world.  It’s amazing how many people who can’t compose a decent email believe they have a novel inside them, struggling to get out.  Perhaps they do, but, if you answer most of your text messages with “K,” “lol” or “haha,” you might want to rethink this one.  The average novel has 50 to 60 thousand words in it.  At a more-talented-than-Shakespeare rate of 500 words a day, that’s around four months of steady 9 to 5 and beyond work.  Assuming, or course, that every word you write is a gem, every comma, colon and question mark is in the right place and SpellCheck can distinguish between “your,” “you’re” and “yore.”  Typing is easy, but writing is hard — even without rereads, rewrites or all the other editing bits which can — and frequently do — take years.  Honestly, with the Grim Reaper looking over your shoulder, do you really want to spend that much time staring at a computer screen?  Probably not.  You’d be far better off to stick to poetry which is quick, easy, still has the requisite dose of Vitamin I, and can be confined to 20 line bursts of creativity on evenings and weekends.

I will watch a whale, see a grizzly, hug a panda, walk with a penguin, dance, skip, jump and crawl with any number ofbucket1 other assorted exotic species.  Here’s the deal.  Leave wild animals alone.  Their mortality is just as precious as yours, and every time you and your guided tour touristas go stumbling through their environment, you’re moving them one hiking boot closer to extinction.  If you must brag, go to Mexico or some other such place where they’ve captured animals specifically for your enjoyment.  Play with them there –their lives are already miserable.  Besides, I think most people are fed up with the irony of somebody spouting off about swimming with the dolphins while they’re sucking down another order of tuna maki at the sushi bar.

I’m going to get a meaningful tattoo.  What the hell does that even mean?  How is any tattoo significantly different from the millions of others adorning everybody west of the Russian Mafia?  Back in the day, tattoos were neat and unique, but there’s been a lot of ink spilled on the middle class since then.  Freudian symbolism aside, these days, tattoos have more to do with disposable income than creativity.  After all, with a thousand bucks in your pocket, you can get as creative as the market will bear — including making sure there are no spelling mistakes.  Perhaps that’s what “meaningful” really means.

I’m going to skydive, bungee jump, hang glide or engage in some other “extreme” nonsense.  Why is it that when people finally realize they are eventually going to die, the first thing they do is try to hasten the inevitable by challenging gravity to a duel?  I trust technology as much as the next guy.  However, I’m certainly not going to jump off a bridge when the only thing between me and the Gates of Valhalla is an elastic band, secured to my leg by a second year Rec. student who may — or may not — be high on peyote.  The modern fetish for jumping (literally) out of one’s comfort zone is a testament to just how cushy life is for some people in the 21st century.  I suppose that when your biggest challenge to life and liberty is who took your parking spot, a controlled explosion of adrenaline is something of an adventure.  (After all, you’re not really going to get hurt when the guy on top of you has the ripcord.)  However, I wonder just how mundane our lives have become when we have to manufacture danger to fulfill them.

bucket2I’m going to tell the truth about X.  Don’t!  Now, or any time between now and the dirt nap, is not the time to confess an abortion, an adoption, an affair or even a fantasy — especially if it involves something sticky or your daughter’s swimming coach, Morgan.  In the words of Mohandas Gandhi, “Shut up and move on.”  (He didn’t actually say that but…) There are certain things that should safely accompany you to the grave, and if that’s too big a burden on your soul, suck it up, you big baby.  It’s not always about you.

As I’ve said many times, I approve of Bucket Lists.  I’ve had several.  However, now that they’ve become a retirement requirement, we’re rapidly reaching the tiresome top end of one-upmanship.  A sunrise isn’t good enough, unless it’s seen from the slopes of Kilimanjaro.  Spain is not complete without playing dodgeball with the bulls of Pamplona.  And no mountain is worth climbing if it doesn’t have a recognizable name.

If your one desire in life is to eat Fugu soaked in Absinthe served by Albanian virgins off silver trays, by all means do it.  But for God’s sake, shut up about it because I’ve only have a finite number of days left to enjoy my morning coffee.  (It’s Maxwell House, and I like it.)

Why I don’t like Baby Boomers

After The Bucket List there were some comments that I was being a little hard on the Baby Boomers.  So to clarify, here, then, is a brief history of why I dislike the Baby Boom Generation.

In the autumn of 1945, millions of horny men and women around the world left the armed forces and returned home after a long absence.  They had just fought the most terrible war in history, and even though they’d hadn’t all been through hell, every single one of them had been close enough to smell it.  When they got home, they had one purpose in mind (Get your mind out of the gutter!): to forget the horrible things they had seen and done and reconstruct the world so their families would never have to witness the madness they had just been through.  They succeeded beyond their wildest expectations, I’m here to tell you, but in the process, they created an enduring evil that still plagues us today – the Baby Boomers.

The children of the Greatest Generation were spoiled brats who grew into moody, inconsiderate adolescents.  Now, they are about to become grouchy, grasping old people.  The joys of adulthood escaped them entirely.  They were raised on equal doses of suburbia, affluence and Dr. Benjamin Spock.  They were indulged by everyone, who pampered them with everything the post war economic miracle could offer.  HoverMoms guarded them against all evil, and absentee Dads worked ever harder to provide them the luxuries they’d never had growing up.  Every pout required ice cream.  Every scraped knee demanded an inquiry into playground equipment.  Every wish was somebody’s command.   One bratty kid is a problem; 50 million is a disaster.  But they were the darlings of the world, a living symbol that, despite man’s hideous ability to obliterate all life on Earth, there was still promise and potential for a better future.

However, by the mid 50s, fractures were already starting to show.  In 1955, Rudolf Flesch published Why Johnny Can’t Read.  For anyone who bothered to look, Flesch’s book was not just an indictment of teaching methods but of the entire education system itself — and beyond.  Flesch sounded the alarm that overindulgence was producing an entire generation who didn’t have any basic skills.  He was also concerned that, as students moved through the system to more complex ideas, this ignorance would only snowball.  Flesch was right and he was largely ignored.

In the early 60s, the cracks became clearly visible.  Millions of young adults moved away from their suburban cocoons into the real world.  The shock was palpable.  For the first time, they saw deep social, political and economic problems and were astounded to discover that not everyone had shared their middle class privilege.  Without any basic understanding, they saw this as a systemic flaw which needed to be corrected.  Unable to grasp the simplest connections in a complex society or to formulate reasonable solutions they merely demanded wholesale change.  However, not everybody shared their middle class values or their middle class solutions.  There was no quick fix.  Unable to understand why they were no longer the centre of the universe but very much aware that the powers that be were not going to snap to and pay attention, the Baby Boomers, as they were beginning to be called, got angry.  The result was a five year temper tantrum that flared across university campuses all over the world.  Forsaking Kennedy for Castro, young people decided that steady work for incremental change was too hard.  They preferred the romantic life of the revolutionary (albeit free of serious consequences.)  If the system wouldn’t change immediately to suit them, they would kick and scream until it did.  Like most tantrums, this one tired itself out, but not before millions of lives had been disrupted.

The convulsions of the 60s tore great sections of our society apart.  The problem was, the anger of the Baby Boomers never went beyond childish rage.  Institutions were knocked down.  Social systems were destroyed.  However, without any long term dedication for reform nothing was built on the rubble.  It became Revolution for the Hell of It.  A sophomore party that got out of hand.  By the end of the decade, the Boomers were already losing interest and by the time things got serious, one May afternoon at Kent State, they’d all but disappeared.  They were gone, off to backpack Europe or the Himalayas in a frantic search for their “Me First” souls.

A couple of years later, they re-emerged when Disco swept the neighbourhood.  Their social conscience forgotten, it was time to dance and do coke and play with therapy.  The mess they left was somebody else’s problem.  Yippies became yuppies, and the Boomers never even looked back.  They had 40 more years of destruction ahead of them.

But there are other perspectives of the dominant generation.  Here’s one translated from Dutch — Over mijn generatie

The Bucket List

In a couple of months, the first of the Baby Boomer generation is going to turn 65.  While I welcome their demise, this is going to be a disaster of Biblical proportion.  The Grim Reaper has just kicked sand in the face of the biggest bully of all time, and the Boomers are not going to go quietly.  If we could have harnessed the energy produced by the collective egos of the Baby Boom, our dependence on fossil fuels would have been over – instantaneously.  Now, as they face extinction, the final flares of conceit are going to be awesome.  Prepare yourself, world.  For the next 10 years — at least — life as we know it is going to be put on hold while we hear endless variations of The Bucket List.  It’s already started.

Of course, like absolutely everything they ever got their mitts on, the Boomers are going to turn this into an all-consuming adventure.  They’re going to throw around words like “growth” and “healing” and “personal experience,” but, in the end, it’s going to be all about who’s got the most stuff.  There’ll to be books, websites, luggage, coffee cups, furniture, how-tos, greeting cards, television shows — Oh, God, just kill me now!  And forget about travel in the next decade because you’re going to be up to your elbows in old people — and not cool old people either.  It’s going to be those tidy buggers who have taken so much Vitamin I they glow in the dark.  Every chapter of Lonely Planet is going to be filled with creaky old farts and fartesses doing stupid stuff to demonstrate to the world they haven’t lost it – yet.  Skydiving, hang gliding, motorcycle riding and all the other bone-breaking challenges will be full up for the next couple of years.  The broken hips alone are going to confuse future archaeologists for centuries.  And don’t even bother about Kilimanjaro: you’ll be trampled in the stampede.  I haven’t even mentioned poetry, novel writing, painting or modern dance.  One complete generation is going to be scrambling around, trying to cram a lifetime of “meaningful experiences” into the quality years between the retirement dinner and the rest home.  Good luck, ‘cause it ain’t gonna fit!  But the worst thing about it, is, long before the gondolas in Venice fill up, they’re all going to want to talk about it.  Justify it. Analyze it.  Discuss it, and explain their reasons why.  Here’s the reason why: you clowns never just DID anything in your entire life, so now you need a Bucket List to motivate your ass?

Look, I’m sorry you missed a chance at Mary Elizabeth in grade 11.  I’m sorry you didn’t go home with Juan Carlos when you were backpacking through Spain in ‘71.  I’m sorry you spent more time renovating your house than living in it.  I`m sorry you never drove a Lamborghini and I`m sorry you missed the Pyramids.  (If Mubarak doesn’t hit the road soon, I’m going to miss them, too!)  Here`s the truth of it. Though.  Nobody sets out to have a meaningful life; it just happens that way.  Crossing off your experiences like items on a grocery list is not going to coax it along.  And here`s another revelation: it’s not a contest.  Just because you think up some esoteric activity you plan to do before you take the dirt nap, that doesn’t make you  more sensitive, imaginative or  smarter than the next guy.  So don’t strut around like you’ve just captured the flag on the moral high ground.  Finally, and most importantly, nobody but you cares why you want to throw a pebble into the Black Sea, and if you bring it up again, somebody is going to slap you.

Personally I think everybody should have a Bucket List.  I have one.  I wrote it when I was 12 – the first time.  The problem I have with Bucket Lists is that Baby Boomers have always had this uncanny ability to spread their regrets over everything they touch.  They taint everything with disappointment.  Then, they have an unholy need to prance their problems publicly.  They think it is somehow virtuous.  This latest incarnation, the Bucket List, started off as something whimsical, even magical (if you will) but it’s rapidly turning into a hit parade of songs not sung, roads not taken and opportunities missed.  It’s been hijacked by the followers of the gospel according to Lennon “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”   The plain fact is Lennon was wrong.  Every life is a continuum of “101 Things I Want To Do Before I Die.” Most people figure that out early.  If you don’t have a Bucket List throughout you’re life, you’re a dolt.  But if you’re depending on it to make the final arc to immortality for you, you’ve done something horribly wrong.