January 08, 2013
Why You Like Lists and Maybe Shouldn't

If you are a lover
of lists,
you will probably find
my most recent
Huffington Post list
right up your alley.
If you, like Newton's
Third Law of Motion,
are the equal and opposite
reaction to lists,
you will find
Val Vadeboncouer's following
anti-list rant
a refreshing breath of
unlisted air.


1. They exist in a vacuum with no context.

2. They over-simplify, sometimes dangerously so.

3. They promise instant knowledge and yet deliver usually nothing but an arbitrary and momentary series of the author's already-existing prejudices.

4. Lists seem to imply choices, however they are blind to the possibilities that didn't make the list -- usually unconsciously.

5. They give the illusion that the list maker KNOWS something, when all he/she might know is how to make a list.

6. Lists reinforce our ADD culture instead of fighting against it.

7. Lists appeal to the left brain need for order and linearity. They insist that the right brain not be engaged which tends to cut us off from feeling, intuition and life itself.

8. Lists are composed of sound bytes, otherwise known as unthinking chatter gathered from the chatter of those around us.

9. We grew up with lists (laundry lists, shopping lists, etc.) and, therefore, like bad habits, they represent a past and a self that does not exist any more.

10. Lists can be easily altered at any time -- updated, added to, subtracted from -- which should give us some indication as to their arbitrary nature and reveal to us that, instead of being finite, as they seem to be, they are, in reality, practically infinite.

11. Lists give us an instant opportunity to disagree. They take a stand somewhere and create an instant reaction. They create a push-pull, I-You dichotomy. If you want to pick a fight with someone, make a list and show it to them.

12. Lists give readers the hope that they are being given a "crash course" on a topic of great significance while all they are really being given is someone else's temporary illusions.

13. People feel no compunction about sharing lists, thereby spreading the infection virally.

14. Lists are numbered, which gives the items the seeming solidity of definition, order, and thought where none may exist.

15. Lists can be folded up, put in one's pocket, carried around, thrown away, and replaced by a new list -- part of the disposable nature of the consumer world.

16. Items on lists can be easily crossed off, giving the list maker an instant feeling of accomplishment when nothing of consequence has really been achieved.

17. Lists are great ways for list makers to plug their own books that, in the hyperlinked blogosphere, just adds to the clutter of narcissism that assaults us each and every minute.

18. Lists provide a sense of progression that, unless you are attempting to describe a step-by-step process (like a recipe), does not, most probably, exist outside of that particular list.

19. Lists add to the information overload of the world while providing little wisdom, which is in very short supply.

20. Lists are an example of how the left brain assumes command and tries to order the world so that the left brain can understand it, but this "order" is in piecemeal, disconnected fragments and gives us a truly sketchy, disjointed, and incomplete reality. In other words, lists can't be trusted.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at January 8, 2013 05:42 PM

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