Bucket list

A Spiritual Bucket List?

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
— Psalms 90:12

This summer is a great time to check things off of your bucket-list. The pace is slower. Vacations often create opportunities to travel the world or to start or deepen a hobby. If you go on Bucketlist.org, you can create your own bucket list and compare your lists to others. The last time I looked, the site claims 48,924 participants with 889,936 goals. That's a lot to do. Better get them done quickly. You might run out of time.
 
This time-limitation helps us appreciate the verse above, the wisdom to live life fully awake. “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” [Psalms 90:12] And it pays to start now, according to the Hebrew Bible, because we don’t control time. “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring,” [Proverbs 27:1].” We make our plans, and then find out that there are other plans waiting for us. “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” [Proverbs 16:9]. On the other hand, when we live life to the fullest, we do have a sense of the spiritual abundance that God has in store: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy...” [Psalms 16:11].
 
Popular bucket-list goals on Bucketlist.org include skydiving (of course), swimming with sharks, spending the night in an underwater hotel and experiencing zero gravity.  I got the feeling as I scanned the popular lists that doing some of these activities may actually precipitate death. This would most certainly compromise the actualization of any other goals on a bucket list.
 
You can imagine that the other winner category on bucketlist.org are sites around the globe to visit before you go, ala 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. I wish the author would have picked a number less ambitious like 11. That would have been more doable. I might have even bought a second volume. There are a lot of travel goals on the bucket-list site: visiting Stonehenge, standing in the Sistine Chapel, straddling the Equator, eating sushi in Japan. These do seem worthy of a bucket list. But they require significant financing, time and careful planning.
 
Kissing passionately in the rain (shared by 944 others), giving blood (581) or laughing until you cry (475), however, just seemed too banal to merit a place on any list. That was also true for learning CPR or eating a slice of Spam. Really? You can’t do better than that? People, where is your imagination?
 
I struggle with society’s understanding of a bucket-list. If we are going to check off anything, it better be the experiences that make life worth living before the checklist runs out. I have opted for a different bucket list, one that has emotional, spiritual or intellectual goals that offer depth, breadth and heft to life. What about organizing a family reunion this summer or writing down your memoirs, going to a silent retreat or reconciling with a sibling? Few of us can say that we have really prayed, really spent meditative time in wonder or told a friend just how much he or she has meant to us. Let’s say at 87 you jumped out of a plane with a parachute and a prayer and can tweet that to all your friends. It’s still not going to fix the broken relationship you have with your estranged son.
 
We have many deathbed scenes in Tanakh, enough to help us realize that although our biblical heroes did not use the rather crass term “bucket list,” they had a very deep understanding that the last words, blessings and demands one makes are listened to with a different kind of attention. There is also a strong sense, whether standing beside Abraham, Jacob or King David’s deathbed that these towering figures needed to say what they did before they left this world to those who were staying.
 
You will not be repeating this life. Every day is a chance to squeeze a little bit more out of this blessed existence. So what are you waiting for?
 
 Shabbat Shalom