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Monday, October 21, 2002

The Revised To-Do List

Men’s Journal is a fairly awful magazine for the most part. Don’t ask me what I’m doing on the tail end of a two year subscription. One thing that I used to be able to say in its defense was that at least it didn’t have pictures of celebrities on the cover—my litmus test for publications. This month’s issue has Harrison Ford on the front. A bad magazine just got worse.

The lead article in this issue is a list of 60 things that every man must do in his life. Some of the entries have been made by famous people with a brief reason for their choice. Dan Rather was given the honor of choosing the first thing: Fish in Alaska. I always thought that Dan Rather was a twit and I really didn’t need any further evidence that he is a fatuous, flatulent ninny. I’m quite sure there are plane-loads of rich men on their way to Alaska as I write this to see if they can inject some semblance of meaning into their lives and blood into their flaccid dorks by trying to catch fish. Good luck, guys!

About 50 of the things on the list you could scratch off with merely a few thousand dollars (or a credit card) and about two weeks of vacation time. Silly, amusement park shit like driving an Indy car, rafting the Grand Canyon, drinking an expensive wine, going to the Final Four (A fucking basketball tournament?), having a threesome (Jay McInerney’s selection. Thanks for your wisdom, Jay.), playing golf at the Old Course in Scotland (Play Golf? Over my dead body.) and many more fatuous entries.

There were a few things on the list that I thought were sensible and noble aspirations for any man or woman: Serve your country (Chuck Yeager—I knew there was a reason I liked him), learn a foreign language, learn a martial art, plant a tree (Ted fucking Nugent’s selection—you surprise me sometimes, Ted. You freaking freak.), get in amazing shape, or simply give something back to your community (NBA player Dikembe Mutombo).

For the most part the Men’s Journal article amounted to little more than a shopping list. Something you would expect from a publication that is more of a product catalogue than a source of ideas. If I were forced to come up with 60 things that all men must do I could say things like “Learn to play something by Bach on an instrument” or “Walk up the Champs-Elysees”--things without which I would find life incomplete--but they may mean nothing to you. Why should they?

I think it is up to everyone to come up with their own To Do list.

Here is my To Do List for life.

1) BECOME AN EDUCATED ADULT

This will mean a lot of different things to different people but by educated I don’t mean get training in a specific field and consider that an education. One of the major errors in our society is that we have made it acceptable to obtain this specialized job training to the exclusion of all other knowledge. Whether you are a doctor, a lawyer, a computer programmer, a chemist, or a stock broker this specialized training does not make you an educated person. I don’t care if you are the foremost heart surgeon in the world, if your idea of literature is Tom Clancy, you are not an educated adult.

Just what does make you an educated person is a little bit difficult to define but if you are a native speaker of English I would suggest a fairly healthy dose of Shakespeare. But this isn’t about specifics; I’m just pointing to the big picture with the operative word being big. People should constantly be challenging their intellect, constantly be learning new things. Being educated is its own reward.

If I had children Iwould tell them that school isn’t mandatory but getting an education is. Most of what I have learned in this life I picked up outside of the 12 years of grade school and four years of college I suffered. If you want to learn something, find the best teacher. Some of my best teachers have been books.

I don’t mean to blow smoke up your butt or resort to cheap flattery but if you are reading this you probably already are pretty well educated (only a compulsive reader would have made it this far into this essay). Now it’s time to go to the second thing on my list.

2) PASS YOUR WISDOM TO THE NEXT GENERATION

This is the basis of civilization. One generation stands on the shoulders of the accomplishments of the preceding generation. There are lots of ways to pass on what you know: teach, invent, build, write, compose, paint—you name it.

There. That’s it. I could put a lot of stuff on my list but these are two good truths for the construction of a decent life. Unlike most of the stuff on the Men's Journal list you can't write someone a check for these things. I’m not saying they are easy and they certainly don’t come cheaply; they take a lot of time. We all have something like 72 years on this planet so time isn’t such a hot commodity as some people say it is. There is even enough time to have a threesome or catch fish if that floats your boat. How about a threesome with Dan Rather and Jay McInerney? At least you know you’d be the smartest person in the room.

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