The Dangers of Listing

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The world seems to have gone crazy over lists.

Open a newspaper and you will find a list of the Places to Visit Before You Die, Things to Do Before You Turn 30, Ten Bungee Jumping Locations to Visit. Magazines are no better, promising you Five Ways to Check if Your Vegetable Vendor is Cheating You and Thirteen Bargain Kirana Shops. Within the magazine are lists that promise Six and a Half Different Ways to Save Washing Soap, Seven Different Ways to Keep Your Friendships Strong, Nine Sure Ways to Lose Weight.

What makes these people think everyone has the same list? I may want to save washing soap by the simple and very effective trick of never using it at all. Or I may need only one way to keep my friendships going. As for losing weight, I might have given up even pretending to try.

And yet, there is obviously a select bunch of people whose lives are lived not by the rule book, but by the list. It must be these people who lap up the lists of the world. They need lists, they adore lists, they live by lists.

And frankly, I have nothing against this. Lists are comforting, lists help you make sense of a crazy world.

What does surprise me is the way they allow lists to choose what they are going to read. How can you simply look at a list and blindly follow it?

Isn’t reading all about opening your eyes and learning to think, very slowly and gently, how to make choices? Isn’t choosing a book about touching it, letting the pages run slowly through your fingers and smelling the scent special to that particular book?

Read everything on the list of Ten Best Writers Who Have Written About Moving Deaths. But don’t let the list restrict you. Instead, use it as your take off point, from where you launch yourself into the immense world of books and reading and ideas and choices.

And set yourself free of lists.

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