‘life’s to do list’

The other day I bought in a used bookstore an introductory text on cognitive science by Paul Thagard. Inside this book I found a list of 47 items titled ‘Life’s To Do List’. Admittedly, the juxtaposition of a list like this–written in an adolescent, loopy handwriting, partly in blue and partly in pink–with a book from MIT Press on cog sci is odd, if not plainly bizarre. Most of the items on the list are cliches: #1 Find true love; #5 Watch sunset on the beach; #27 Go on a carriage ride. The fact that #29 ‘VEGAS!’ follows #28 ‘Give bone marrow & save someone’ is humorous and endearing at the same time.

I say that the list is cliched, but it’s also unbearably hopeful and sincere. My impression is that it’s written by someone quite young or somewhat restricted in their activities.  They have never slept under the stars (which is easily crossed off the list, I think) or picked wildflowers in a field or owned a pet or written a love letter. To find this list, at this moment in my life, in a book on cognitive science, has left an impression on me. I’m torn in many directions at once.

conjuring scars

Reading bell hooks, All About Love, and I learn that the scars that can be found on men in prison are more often than not the result of childhood, not adulthood, abuse. This is at first surprising; upon reflection it is less so. The image evokes rambunctious kids with exhausted parents, ‘caregivers’ whose ignorance, lack of creativity, or simple helplessness leads them to believe that their only recourse is physical violence. One thinks then of the idols that captivate these children, the neighborhoods and poverty that condition them. The examples set by these idols, this poverty, and these caregivers: what could counteract these forces better than love? And not only the kind of love that one received from a friend of the family or an extended family member, but the kind of love embodied in the spirit of charity or social justice.