Top deck of a London bus.
Man comes upstairs and moves to sit next to another man in front seat. Seated man looks up at new passenger who is requesting he move his bag. Seated man looks over shoulder. Behind him there are only six other passengers on the top deck. Seated man looks incredulously at new passenger. “Really?” can be heard. New passenger, now sitting, asks already seated man, if he wants him to sit at the back? Already seated man mutters inaudible. Newly seated man shuffles closer, settles down and opens his newspaper. Already seated man stares at cheek of newly seated man like he’s trying to burn through his face with just the power of his stare.
We’re funny sometimes aren’t we? People.
The bucket list idea has been around for a few years now, popularised by the film of that name from 2007.
Essentially the notion of a list of the life experiences to have, or life achievements to attain, before you die. Before you ‘kick the bucket’. For example, ‘making this trip ticks one thing off my bucket list’.
You can even download suggested bucket lists – with places you should visit and experiences you should have whilst you still can. Someone else’s idea of what you should do, to live a rich and fulfilled life. Interesting concept.
Often these lists contain far flung places to visit or high octane adrenaline fueled experiences. Many cost a lot of money or take a lot of time. Visit Machu Pichu. Skydive. Swim with dolphins. Run a marathon.
What if we lived for the moment instead? What if we identified the day to day things that bring pleasure, happiness, joy to our lives and just do more of them?
Drink tea with a biscuit to dunk. Sit in the garden. Have a bath. Walk in the woods. Bake brownies. Buy those orange shoes we covet. Listen to a thunderstorm. Hold hands. Laugh.
Too few people notice the little things they enjoy and then set out to do more of them.
It strikes me the bucket list idea has a hole in it. If we’re focused on our death and on large scale, time costly, expensive big events, then life is leaking out of the hole every day.
A friend of mine has created a brand around the question “Can scorpions smoke?”. Steve Chapman is a creative genius who helps people think differently and explore the world with new eyes. His website is here, take a look.
His book of that name was on my desk today and the title kept catching my eye. I wondered how silly a question can get?
Can pigeons whisper?
Can the sky tickle me?
What if wind is sucking not blowing?
Can bananas plot?
What if my eyes were on my toes?
Can water drown?
Can an itch be drawn?
Does anger like peanut butter?
Children have this wonder. As adults we lose it. Ironically education, society, organisation drive it out of us.
Yet our ability to face the world wearing a coat of possibility allows us to weather many storms. Breaking with convention, with patterned thinking, is a source of joy and creativity and possibility.
Just thinking about those few questions brought a smile to my face. Thanks Steve.
This morning I tricked my wife.
Her car has been away for a repair and is due back this evening. At 7:15 this morning I woke her to tell her the car had just pulled up outside. She cursed and hauled herself to the window to peep out. She scanned left and right. No car. The smiling husband proclaims, “April Fool!”
It felt oddly satisfying to have duped her. I was pleased with myself. I remember saying to myself, be alert, don’t get caught out, you’ve won.
Only an hour later, my wife tapped on the bathroom door. I opened it, half dried from my shower. She was holding the phone. “It’s your Dad,” she said. “He wants to know where you put the spare kettle.” (Two weeks ago we thought his kettle had broken and bought a replacement, only to discover it was still working). I grabbed the phone. “Hi,” I said, “Dad? Dad?”
Suddenly it dawned. I too had been had. April Fool.
The feelings we experience when we have been clever, or won, or outsmarted someone, are quite different to those we feel when we are caught out, tricked, beaten or made to feel small.
We would do well to recall how the other person might feel in all our interactions with each other. Not just the fun ones on April 1st.
I need to shop for food today. Saturday isn’t a normal shopping day for us – too many people in the aisles. The aimless people.
Anyhow, it occurred to me, what if I could shop for emotions? What would be on my list? What do I want more of and what do I have enough of in the cupboard?
Do I want more joy? More caring? More trust? More serenity? Do I need a little more sadness? A big pot of empathy? Do I need to refill my anger? Maybe I would like to take some lonely back to the shop?
Am I baking a relationship cake and need some extra courage? Some more selfishness, a little daring, some strong, rather than medium, fun? A big box of compassion perhaps, a soupcon of adventurousness and a large tin of hurt? Plus a garnish of warmth?
Maybe I’m about to change role and I need to stock up on thrilled, thoughtful and excited, buy a refill pack of embarrassed, but also purchase some ashamed and not good enough seasoning?
Or maybe I’m being forced to change role and need some hope, a little vindictiveness and a splash of inadequate, to go with the large supply I have at home of feeling used?
What would be on your emotions shopping list?
In my childhood I vaguely recall a film called ‘The land that time forgot’. Something about dinosaurs still thriving on a long lost island that a submarine, full of people, stumbles upon. The tale largely about their struggle to survive. I doubt it was a classic.
In our own lifetime though, we too forget such strange lands from our distant past. The land where play is everything. Where time has no meaning. Where larger inhabitants set the rules and look after us. Care free. A land where train rides are a wild adventure, long before we come to terms with commuting. A land where owning wellies with heels that light up, having chocolate cake, or getting stickers, is both thrilling and fulfilling. A land where magic prospers and wonder thrives.
For many, a happy time. Exploration and discovery, learning, fun, play, all at the heart of our daily existence. Our aspirations are simple.
Then we become adults. We struggle in this strange new land, working hard to earn money to buy possessions, or to save for a holiday to get us through. We sleep little. We struggle with worry and anxiety. Relationships are hard. Friendships move on line, with electronic photos and status updates a proxy for being together, as we were when we were six. Real living a film story, with plot and dramatic twist and turn. We drink too much to cope. Work too hard to play.
Childhood fun and freedom. A world of play, experimentation, learning.
The land that adults forgot?
Many years ago, the photograph was a physical thing.
Nowadays we live in a digital age. The image has become a series of ones and zeros, which can be shared instantly across the globe. It can be enlarged, edited, colours saturated, edges blurred. It can be enhanced with special effects, have its background changed, detail enhanced. All of this can be achieved in seconds. Methods and means for sharing are many, and once a photograph is out in the social network we lose track of its global journey; who might see it, where, how and when.
When we capture a smile in a photograph, it has an eternal quality. A moment in time is captured in digital form to be shared and enjoyed for ever. It becomes an everlasting smile. Or does it?
The photograph cannot replicate the human experience. The feeling that went with the smile. The sensation of the facial muscles drawing the lips back. The image or experience behind the camera that generated the smile. The joy of the moment. The supporting emotions of fun, love, togetherness, excitement, happiness. It cannot hold within it the sharing. The memories.
Today we have become obsessed by taking the picture. We snap them constantly. Delete the duplicates. Discard the imperfect. Edit them to impress.
Maybe we have forgotten to enjoy the moment? To take in the experience? To absorb the emotion and allow the feeling to wash over us like a wave of liquid happiness? To live the experience and therefore to enrich the memory? Maybe the smile in the moment is the only truly everlasting smile? The one in the now?
Let’s focus on the moment, not on the creation of the ones and zeros.