Eco on Why We Make Lists + Some Favorites

Our friend Tim Slavin, of Kids, Code and Computer Science sent us this image, knowing that we write often about lists, a critical tool in managing a creative life. We discovered it was from a 2009 interview with Umberto Eco in Der Spiegel about his exibition at the Louvre on the essential nature of lists. Eco expanded our view mightily of the REAL function of lists. The entire interview is worth reading; here are some illuminating bits:

The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order — not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries. 

The list doesn’t destroy culture; it creates it. Wherever you look in cultural history, you will find lists. 

When asked, “Why do we waste so much time trying to complete things that can’t be realistically completed?”, Eco replied,

We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That’s why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore, no end. It’s a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don’t want to die.

We’re mulling Eco’s words as we think of all the lists we make and come across…

Personal principles

Marco Alessio via Siobhan Humston

Marco Alessio via Siobhan Humston

Personal attributes

harry bertoia

harry bertoia

Good things in our life…

Sally Schneider

Sally Schneider

…A list/poem about a Boheman Dinner by  Charles Green Shaw

poem:

…Gratitude lists…

gratitude list

…all the lists in a great book of lists:Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations from the Collections of the Smithsonian Museum

Book of Lists cover

 

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