Friday, February 2, 2018

My Own Bucket List

I loved the movie, "The Bucket List." I had seen it one time previously, but it was better the second time, since I knew what was going to happen and could focus on the smaller details I missed the first time I watched it. It also allowed me to consider thoughts and conceptual things that struck me for the first time, and those insights were powerful for me.
The first epiphany was something quite simple. The very concept of a bucket list is a product of relative privilege and luxury. People who can consider a true "bucket list" (things they have reason to believe they might be able to do, as opposed to things they simply wish they could do in an ideal world) are able to do so due to some kind of privilege or luxury from their current and previous lives. Financial considerations are the best example of this disparity, since more concrete, objective goals often have an accompanying price tag, while poorer people usually are forced to focus on things that are more conceptual or subjective. In fact, many people don't have the luxury of even considering the concept of a bucket list, since all their energy must be focused on nothing more than survival. 
For example, in the movie, Edward’s list was about seeing the world, which was possible only because he was abnormally rich. It included, “Go on a safari,” “Visit Stonehenge,” “Sit on the Great Egyptian pyramids,” and “Drive a motorcycle on the Great Wall of China.” Conversely, Carter’s list was full of things like, “Kiss the most beautiful girl in the world,” “Witness something truly majestic,” “Laugh until you cry,” and “Find the joy in your life.” The differences in their buckets lists could be explained as nothing more than their individual personalities and perspectives, but it is not adequate to ignore the impact of financial success and security on those personalities and perspectives. Edward was able to record practical goals that were expensive to accomplish specifically and exclusively because he had the money to make them happen, while Carter was constrained by his limited resources to goals that were not attached in any way to financial cost and which were far more subjective.
The second thought was much more personal and enlightening. My own father would fit Carter’s character almost completely. Except for the element of race, which was a legitimate, major contributing factor for Carter, my father’s life mirrored Carter’s in nearly every way. My father gave up his professional dreams to marry my mother, then he did it again, 14 years later, to give her the support she needed to deal productively with her schizophrenia. He had eight children, specifically because my mother wanted as many kids as possible, even though he knew it would increase his responsibilities exponentially. He intentionally moved from financial security to serious poverty for his wife’s sake, and, as a result, he changed irrevocably the content of what he would have included on a bucket list.
In fact, even more fundamentally, he gave up the notion of creating a bucket list and made his own life his bucket list. He lived specifically and intentionally for his wife and children, giving up nearly all aspects of pure, undiluted individuality in the process. Watching this movie reminded me that I have come to read one particular Biblical verse differently as a result of coming to understand my father's sacrifice: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
This verse doesn’t say that he "die" for this friends; rather, it says that he "lay down his life" for his friends.” There is an important difference between those two phrases. Just as Jesus, of Nazareth, set aside whatever life he had created prior to the age of 30 to begin his ministry to the people of his area, my father set aside the life he envisioned, twice, to begin his own personal ministry to his wife.
I see that same example in Carter. He lived his life for his wife and family, and he lost himself in a real and practical way. Edward offered him a chance to focus on himself again, and, initially, Carter accepted that offer. Eventually, however, he realized that the life he had established was more important than a practical, tangible, measurable list of dreams – as much as he enjoyed living those dreams. Edward didn’t improve Carter’s life in any way, ultimately, except in helping him regain the joy of his former life of self-sacrifice and service.
Meanwhile, Carter literally changed Edward’s life. The things on Edward’s bucket list that matter the most in the end were the things Carter had added, especially, “Find the joy in your life.” That joy wasn’t in the grandiose, fancy, and expensive; it was in the personal, intimate, and costless gift of his daughter and granddaughter.

That is my takeaway from this movie. Bucket lists are enticing, and, for those who can afford to fulfill them, they can be enjoyable and fulfilling to a degree. However, the most meaningful bucket lists are what people live as a direct result of their normal, daily, steady lives. I have chosen a life path that probably will not afford me the temptation to create a bucket list like Edwards, even if only in theory and not actual cost, but that chosen path has given me a multitude of experiences like Carter’s bucket list. Perhaps more than anything in my life, I am grateful for that particular way in which I am my father’s son.