Saturday, 14 June 2008

Things To Do Before I Die

I don't imagine that my parents grew up with this kind of notion. It seems to be a modern phenomenon, a symptom of the affluent times we find ourselves in whereby our aims in life often seem to revolve more around seeing things rather than changing things. Rewind fifty years, and the idea of a list of things to do involving travelling the world (because that's what Things To Do Before You Die generally involves) would seem impossibly bourgeois. Which is precisely what it is. Picture it:

Wife - Don't you ever feel that we should do more with our lives, Ronald? It just seems that we do the same things year after year. Maybe we could do something really different.

Husband - Are you unhappy, Celia? You know my wages as a bank clerk don't really amount to a great deal. And no wife of mine is going to work, that's for sure! Besides, I thought you quite liked our yearly holiday in Weston-super-Mare. You don't actually want us to buy a caravan instead of renting one? I'll have to save for years!

Wife - I think was thinking a little further afield, a bit more ambitious. Ronald, I really feel that I have to see Machu Picchu before I can consider my life a worthwhile one. And I absolutely have to swim with dolphins before i die!

It surely didn't happen, did it? These days you're probably viewed with some suspicion if you don't aim to take a road trip across America at some point, or go scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef. It's unambitious, and people who are unambitious have no place in the great scheme of things. No sir. They're just taking up space and, God forbid!, they might even be content with life as it is. These people are obviously communists or communists-in-waiting and need to be hunted down. And shot.

What of those people who actually do those Things To Do Before They Die? Can they then die happily? That can't be how it is. What I think happens is that they must have a really fantastic time but not so fantastic that it elevates them to some higher plane of consciousness, just the same fulfillment that they might get from something else they enjoy multiplied by a factor of...something. And then they're unfulfilled again. A boring person who fulfills their ambition to skydive remains a boring person, but with the added ability to further bore people with the story of when they went skydiving.

All this stuff is just a way of justifying why we do jobs we hate, isn't it? If we can convince ourselves that all this drudgery is necessary then the drudgery is justified. But then I suppose that that logic can be applied to many things; we have to find ways of justifying doing all manner of things that we might not enjoy. I'm being over-cynical, just for a change. Things To Do Before You Die is the carrot that we dangle in front of us to keep us going. And we all need to do it.

Here's my list:

- See Stevie Wonder play live.

Not very ambitious, is it? Maybe a more ambitious version would have me hoping, by virtue of some as yet uninvented time travel device, to see Stevie when he toured England on the Tamla Motown Revue with Diana Ross, Martha Reeves and Smokey Robinson back in 1965. But it's the only thing I feel I need to do. It will make me extremely happy. And yesterday tickets went on sale for Stevie's first English tour in many years. This would be a cause for celebration were it not for the fact that it sold out immediately without my knowledge. A second date was then added and sold out, also without my knowledge. Then a third date, for which tickets are still available as I type, does have some tickets left but these tickets come with the warning that people who suffer from a fear of heights should steer clear of them. I'm not scared of heights but I am unwilling to watch my musical hero from a distance. I want to be close up.

So, it looks like I'll have to line a tout's pocket to see Stevie but if that's what I need to do then that's what I'll do. Then I can die happily.