The Courier-Mail - QWeekend

Lists? They’re on my to-do list

- William McInnes is an actor and author

One of the ways people pass some of the hours of their lives is making lists. I had a teacher in one of the early years of high school who encouraged we students to make a list of things we wanted achieve during the year. I can’t remember anything on the list I made, so can’t remember whether anything was achieved. The story of my life. Lists? Never been too enthusiast­ic about them and when I admitted this to a uni lecturer after a discussion of my work methods, he told me why I was “frightened” of lists.

His view was along the lines of “life being temporal”. We all have a use-by date and lists smack of trying to control life, which is a finite thing. Lists may ease people’s anxiety and make order out of the chaos that life is, but they are an artificial construct, “you see that construct but don’t have the courage to commit against eternity”.

After hearing this I wanted to make a list, about anything. I do remember the high school teacher extolling the benefits of a list. “It gives you guidance and direction and goals in life.” People must agree because they love lists. Things to do, things to see, places to be, ingredient­s and stuff to make.

Oddly there are never lists about the 10 best bus stops, railway stations, public toilets or carparks. Let’s make some!

Politician­s love lists because when they recite one they don’t have to commit to much, just lots of nice fuzzy things people like hearing. Oddly, lists of an opponent’s failings are always nitpicking­ly microscopi­c in detail.

Just when you think lists might be nonsense comes my friend, who told me how she had found a list recently, made by her late dad. Made years ago, after he’d retired from a hugely rich and successful career. And not long before he died. Three entries. “Sort out shed. Sort out finances. Sort out MYSELF”.

This bloke had lived a wonderful life. Yet in the time left, he wanted to sort out himself. I found that incredibly moving. I hope he got there.

Lists. Funny old things.

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