My Bucket List

Roger Ebert was offended by the movie The Bucket List. He thought it made a mockery of the seriousness of terminal cancer. Maybe he took the film a little too seriously.

My gripe with the movie is different: while it pays tribute to friendship and its redemptive value, it fails to come to grips with the the real value of an adventurous life. The Jack Nicholson character, true to form, is all about exotic thrills, the rush of adrenalin, and tempting fate. The Morgan Freeman character has more depth, but as a comparison with Nicholson, that’s not saying much. Both men are self-absorbed; neither can place “the list” into the context of purposeful living.

G. K. Chesterton

Today I read these words by G. K. Chesterton: “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” Chesterton could see the adventure in the ordinariness of life. Anything can be regarded with the lens of expected surprise. But the inconveniences of life, even the most mundane, afford real opportunities for adventure—a kind of living beyond the ordinary without demanding a change in circumstances. It all depends on perspective.

Today I had an adventure. Not a big, spectacular one that I can check off my own personal bucket list. I had been shopping for something on Craig’s List and had an appointment at a seller’s house. When I rang the doorbell, dogs began barking. Nothing unusual about that. But suddenly, one dog, yelping wildly, sprang through the screen door and lunged at me. As I reared back, the dog grabbed my shirt-tail in his teeth.
I wasn’t injured, but my favorite summer shirt is in tatters.

The adventure potential of this experience really was a matter of perspective. I didn’t like the sudden conversion of my shirt from something that was a pleasure to wear to a rag more worthy of washing the car. But I did feel oddly energized by this close encounter with physical danger. And I can imagine wearing the shirt in future as a badge of courage, so to speak. For a moment I was reminded that real surprises happen. I’m not generally fearful of dogs. And I didn’t have time for fear in this case. The dog—like my own dog, an Australian shepherd—was on me in an instant. But as the dog fled, I felt the exhilaration of a survivor.

In the modern world, we often have to manufacture experiences of that kind. Some go in for extreme sports, others for extreme travel. I like sea kayaking and motorcycling, each activity with its distinctive set of challenges and array of risks. But they aren’t things I have to do, in the utilitarian sense of “have to.” If I have to do them it’s because modern life is a little too humdrum.

Isn’t that why we have “bucket lists,” adventure ticks that we hope to get out of our system before we pass on?

Claudia Root and Jerry Root

Today I had an email message from a good friend who lives in another state. Completely incidental to the message of his email was an attached photo of him and his wife in a bi-plane over the Puget Sound. They’re sporting goggles and leather headgear—and broad smiles, of course—in a tight picture that says, “We’re having a blast, and we’re doing it together!”

I love the Puget Sound, and I love flying. I’ve dreamed of making a pontoon trip there some day. But it never occurred to me to view the San Juan Islands from altitude in a vintage bi-plane. I’ve now added that to my personal bucket list.

But I have another goal, as well—to remember Chesterton’s spin on the ordinary and the inconvenient. With a perspective like that, everyday is a bucket-list kind of day, every day an opportunity to check something off the list that I didn’t know was on it!

About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking, sailing.

8 Responses to My Bucket List

  1. Doug Geivett says:

    Thanks, Joan, for visiting this blog and post. I hope you return and explore other posts.



  2. Anonymous says:

    It was extremely interesting for me to read that article. Thanks the author for it. I like such themes and anything connected to this matter. I definitely want to read a bit more on that blog soon.

    Joan Swenson


  3. vic says:

    The point about making a bucket list was to live and do fun and amazing things. Maybe you’ll understand someday that playing it safe is easy but trully living and taking chances is what makes it all worth it.


  4. Jimmy Allen says:

    It’s funny, When I was up in Washington last week, my friend asked me what are five things things i want to do before I die. I actually never Really thought it through other then my whimsical fantasies of riding an emu, catching a bird out of the air, and punching a fish to name a few… The question Did really make me want to write down the things I Really wanted to do before I die.

    I like your story about your (mis)adventure with the dog. Even though it was an intense and potentially dangerous situation, there is something exhilarating about risk.
    I was also talking to my friend about that too. It is not enough to jump your bike from one ramp to the other, there needs to be spikes, or fire, or maybe a gorge with jagged rocks at the bottom. It seems as men especially, God designed us with this sense for adventure. Why do you think we crave a sense of danger?

    (I never saw the movie Bucket List btw, and also, what are some of the things on your ‘Bucket List’ to be done?)


  5. Doug Geivett says:

    Don, I’ve often reminded our daughters that our family of four is the result of divine design. We were meant to be together and to sharpen each other.


  6. donstuff says:

    Hi Doug,
    It became easier for me when we had kids – I wanted to be the kind of person who could be patient with them as they grew up and developed into the kind of people who could be patient with me as I grew old.
    On another note, I believe God has given each of us a unique set of gifts and talents that sometimes need to be rediscovered after we have foolishly created ourselves to be the person we don’t want to be. I don’t know if that makes sense, but the person God created is in there somewhere and sometimes we just need to envision that person and allow God to come alongside us during the discovery.


  7. Doug Geivett says:

    Don, I like your post, as well. Readers, you should check it out:

    There are several ways to go about this business of working on a bucket list. One is simply to make a list of things I feel especially compelled to do before “kicking the bucket,” and tick them off as each is done. But it could be useful to ask why those particular things are on my list. What does my list say about me? And is that the kind of person I want to be when I’ve finished my business here on earth? An alternative is to think strictly in terms of what sort of person I wish to become, then get busy becoming that sort of person. But how do you do that?


  8. donstuff says:

    Great post. Thanks.


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