21 October 2012

Kismet and the Bucket List

I keep thinking about a bucket list, specifically my bucket list.  And while I’ve done a few things in the past year (i.e., dancing badly in a flash mob) that could be considered bucket-able, I’ve resisted for a while creating my own bucket list.

I am a firm believer in free will: our autonomy to make our own choices.  It’s a wonder that man ever believed in a preconceived destiny, don’t you think?  I suppose that in today’s era, where we control our world - to an extent - and where we live in a world so ordered, it seems obvious that we have ownership of our individual fates.

But there’s that word:  fate.  The concept of fate is an obsolete one, one that implies our powerlessness in this world.  The world can often appear so random or chaotic, and so much more so in generations past.    If we think back on the lives of the Ancients, those with no concept of, say, the germ theory of disease, perhaps the most comforting way to make sense of the world was to absolve oneself of all responsibility and lay the onus on something other, some higher power, perhaps. 

I suppose, ultimately, we all share the same fate, although none of us knows the details, like how, or when, or where.  As Flogging Molly sing, we all go the same way home.  And so, when I begin to think of this ultimate fate, I always feel simultaneously attracted to and repelled from the concept of the bucket list.  I’ve always been a list maker.  If you know my mother, you’ll understand that this behavior trait of creating lists can only be both nature and nurture.  I love the idea of a bucket list.  The planning, the dreaming, the creativity involved in creating one is very appealing.  I have so many interests that I expect I could easily fill an entire notebook with my hopes and wishes.  But I’ve consciously resisted creating an actual, tangible one for myself (which is somewhat ridiculous because it certainly exists in my head).  And I think my resistance can be traced to my feelings regarding the concepts of kismet and serendipity.

I often find myself confusing these two terms and I can’t really pinpoint why.  Kismet is fate; serendipity is the magical phenomenon of finding valuable things not sought for:  a windfall.  And even if fate is fixed, would we know?  If our lives were all planned, wouldn’t all the positive aspects appear as serendipity and the negative as bad karma?  And while, as I already mentioned, I don’t believe in a pre-determined fate, there have been instances in my life that have played out in ways that have made me question my denial or acceptance of fate or serendipity, or both, or maybe neither.

For example, when I made the decision to return to Tucson and the university to pursue the teacher certification program after bumbling about for a year post-baccalaureate, the very first person I ran into on campus was Dan.  We’d known each other previously because he was good friends with my neighbors a couple years prior.  And a year or so later after that chance re-acquaintance, Dan and I were engaged.  How strange that serendipity caused our paths to cross that day.  Or was it serendipity?  Were we destined to meet up there that day, to begin walking this path that we are still following together, more than twenty years later?  I can’t decide.  If I asked Dan, he’d probably attribute our meeting in front of the campus bookstore to the fact that it was near lunch time, he was hungry, and he was on his way to the Student Union to eat. 

Of course, I prefer the romance of mystery, or is it the mystery of romance?  I can’t decide on that one either.  But regardless of all these questions, my resistance to the bucket list has to do with this delicate balancing in my mind of kismet and serendipity.  While I feel responsible for my own fate and I’m more than willing to accept the ramifications of the choices I make, I also do not want to plan my life out to the degree that I leave little room for serendipity to flourish where it may. 

I suppose my ultimate fear of the bucket list would be facing, on my proverbial death bed, all those items left unachieved.  How would that feel?  Ugh.  I didn’t want that kind of pressure:  a to-do list before you die, coupled with the unknown but looming and literal deadline?  But then I realized that creating my bucket list required a huge shift in this list maker’s paradigm.  First of all, the list is far more than its items:  it’s a source of dreams, an exploration of desire, a guide for living.  It’s most definitely not a checklist.  And so yesterday, I ventured downtown and found the perfect journal for my bucket list.  And today, with my favorite fountain pen in hand, I’ll begin to shape and sculpt my endless numbered days. 

Three items from my bucket list:

1.  Finish my first novel.

2.  Be able to speak Spanish with some degree of proficiency.

3.  Hike the Appalachian Trail.

What about you?  Share three items from your bucket list, if you’re so inclined.

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