Thursday, September 23, 2010

Umberto Ecco, Lists, and Meta Lists.

Italian novelist, Umberto Eco, said:
The list is the origin of culture. It's part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order—not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries... We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That's why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore, no end. It's a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don't want to die.

Perhaps we also like lists because we want to live. Perhaps I like lists because I want to live. And like them I do. I have liked lists for as long as I can remember, into the time that I can't.
  • I like the way they simultaneously help us order our world, and open our world to us in a new way.
  • I like how easy they are—that they don't require complete sentences, paragraphs, or thoughts.
  • I like how they help us keep track of things, and remember things, and accomplish things we may not have been as likely to check off otherwise.
  • I like how in narrowing in on certain details we forget others. The revealing/concealing of it.
  • I like how clean they are, and how concise.
  • I like that they may also be long, and that they can get longer.
  • I like their dynamic nature in general—that something may always be added or taken away.
  • I like that their topics range from the pedestrian to the profound.
  • I like their form.
Lists I am considering making:

1. 15 albums that will stay with me.
2. 15 books that have changed my life.
3. People I admire and would like to be like.
4. Things I would like to accomplish in my life.
5. Books that I read as a child.
6. Books that I will read to my children.
7. Books that I want to read.
8. Books that have made me cry while riding airplanes.
9. Books that have made me laugh while riding airplanes.
10. The happiest moments I can remember.
11. What I have wanted to be.
12. What I miss.
13. What I don't miss.
14. Things I have lost.
15. My favorite smells.
16. Things that make me feel safe.
17. Places I would like to visit.
18. Things I can't do, or can't do well.
19. Things I am good at.
20. Celebrity crushes, mine.


Mieka said...

This is one of my all time favorite blog posts in the history of blogging! I love that quote. I love lists. And I love you and your love of lists. I also love your list of lists to make in the future--if you don't mind, I think I'd like to make my own lists based on the topics you listed.

Rachel. said...

Dear Mieka, Thank you, and I don't mind at all. A friend in England shared many of the ideas with me, and now I am pleased to share them with you.

Chris Almond said...

I also enjoy lists. I started making a list of everything I believe and everything I value. (two separate lists). Niether are done, but so far have come close to filling up an entire notebook.

Rachel. said...

Christopher, those are beautiful list ideas, and I have enjoyed thinking of what my dual lists would look like, and what the differences would be and when they'd cross. Thank you.