Recently I read a blog post that discussed those “ten ways to do X” lists (which raises a question of how many things even have ten reasonable ways of doing them). It reminded me of a blogger I knew when I first started here who had a blog that only posted lists of ten things. And that reminded me of David Letterman’s Top Ten lists.
Which led to remembering my own Top Ten Things in Life list from many years back (30, at least). Since this blog is, in part, my scrawl in the internet wall, I realized it’s exactly the sort of thing I should document here.
I thought I’d also toss in a bunch of other favorites to fill out the post.
Without further ado, here’s the list as I wrote it (I’ve reformatted it from its humble ASCII text file origins):
My Top Ten Favorite Things (then)
- Laughing — Of all the things I would not want to lose, this one is almost certainly the most important.
- Sensuality — This not only applies to sex, but to all experiences of the senses.
- On (or in) the Water — Given my druthers, I’d probably prefer the sea, but lakes and rivers are great, too.
- Teaching — Sometimes I wonder if I just like showing off what I know, and sometimes I know that I rejoice in feeding others knowledge.
- Animals — Dogs, Cats,… Horses, Dolphins, Monkeys. In that order.
- Being Outdoors — I like being outdoors somewhere where people aren’t, but just being outside is good. Any living place I have always has lots of open windows… year-round.
- Reading — Science Fiction, Technical books (programming, hardware), Comics, and I include (looking at) Pictures here.
- Technology — Digital Hardware, Software, Design and Building.
- Being Alone — Very important to my mental health.
- Traveling — Anywhere, anytime.
As I recall, some corporate exercise I participated in asked us to create this list. Or something similar, and I ended up doing this for my old GeoCities blog. I don’t remember.
It’s an interesting list looked back at several decades later. A lot of it remains unchanged, most of it, really. One big change: I’d give dogs second place on their own. Given I don’t interact with cats, horses, dolphins, or monkeys, I’m dropping them entirely. Still think they’re really cool (and I’d add octopuses), but they don’t rate Top Ten.
I’ll have to drop #3 for lack of much boating or swimming in many years. I saw the sea briefly during a visit to Seattle in 2016, but otherwise it’s been a decade or two since I’ve seen it, let alone gotten into or onto it. I still love it, but it’s not a part of my life anymore. (The closest was taking a round-trip ferry boat ride in Seattle harbor, which I thoroughly enjoyed.)
I’ll drop #8 as well. I don’t follow technology like I used to. I do maintain a strong interest in science and math, and that has grown to the point I’d be inclined to include it in my Top Ten.
I think #2, although truthful, was as much about signaling to potential mates as it was about expressing my favorite things. These days, I’d replace it with a good conversation over a delicious meal.
The last one probably slides off a new list. I do love travel, but it has become such a pain these days that it has lost its luster for me. (Age is a part of that, too.) My desire to see the world has definitely declined. (In part because it’s just the same old shit everywhere now.)
It’s clearly way past time for a new list. This is a first draft; it may change once I’ve thought about it for a while.
My Top Ten Favorite Things (now)
- Laughter — Still and always the most important. To quote Niels Bohr, “Some subjects are so serious that one can only joke about them.” I also like the H.L. Mencken definition: “Creator — A comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh.” If there is any gift I’d see as God-given, it’d be our ability to laugh. Parke Godwin suggested it’s the single gift that balances our self-awareness of chaos and death.
- Dogs — I love nearly all dogs better than I like most people. (Dogs appreciate laughter, too. They like it when their humans are happy.)
- Teaching — I was blessed with an able mind and the love of learning. I’m a life-long dedicated autodidact. The question does remain how much is ego, how much is a need to be valued, and how much is the joy of seeing that light in someone’s eyes. I know all three to be true to some extent, but I can’t access the percentages accurately. Self-image begs for the last one to be mostly the case, but I know the second one to be significant. We all tend to be blind to our own ego, and I can’t judge that one.
- Being Alone — I have to acknowledge this one as a very close tie for third place. I’m a hard-core introvert and a raging misanthrope, and as I said, I much prefer the company of a dog.
- Reading — in my book (heh) still the best form of storytelling and disseminating information.
- A Conversation with a Good Friend — Even introverted misanthropes need company sometimes. If it’s over a good meal and some tasty craft beer, all the better.
- Music — How was this not on the original list? Music has been there in some form all my life. Mom was a music teacher, and she taught me piano at such an early age I can’t remember not playing.
- Being Outdoors — The deep woods, a distant lake, the empty desert, or even just a nice long walk around the neighborhood. I live in a condo, and the association pays for professional snow shoveling, but I go out and do mine before they show up so I can “play in the snow” outside.
- Programming — It’s weird, but I’ve loved programming ever since I stumbled over it in college. It became a hobby then, and stayed a hobby all during my professional career as a programmer. (Although I didn’t do as much then.) Post-retirement, I’m still messing around with it to the point of having a blog about programming. The tagline there is, “I can’t stop writing code!”
- Trees — I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about trees that fascinates and enthralls me. I’ve decided that when I die, I want to be cremated and my ashes used to plant a tree (oak or maple would be nice).
The order in either list shouldn’t be taken too seriously. The top three-ish items belong in the top three, but the rest have roughly equal footing.
I thought my old Top Ten list would make for a short post, but that went longer than expected. (But pretty much everything I write does. You’d think I’d be used to it by now.) My plan was to include a bunch of other favorite lists, but upon reflection (and word count) I think not.
My favorite movies are already listed on my Movies page. It was hard enough narrowing down that list. I have far too many favorite books and TV shows to list. And I’ve posted about my favorites in those areas plenty. Listing them here seems gratuitous.
Favorite music or bands is another tough one. In some sense, my favorite music is live. I do lean towards rock, but I enjoy most forms. I think music is a very special art form — not uniquely human, but we’ve raised it to amazing levels (which is kinda our thing). I have realized I do have two favorite bands: Little Feat and Little Big Town. They’re like siblings: similar but different; each their own.
The one list that does belong here — on a Post-it note so old the ink is faded — is a list of my heroes. I’ve mentioned most of them along the way, but I found it interesting to try to make a list of them.
I’m not sure what it says that most of them are fictional. In part the list is biased to be understood, so of course it uses known names. I certainly do have IRL heroes (my mother, father, and sister, to begin with, and many teachers), but readers wouldn’t know them. (And I tend to keep the part of my life containing other people fairly private. I’m an open book, but they don’t have to be.)
There is, perhaps, also that literary figures are similar and easier to know than real people. The lessons one learns from them are more distilled, which can make them more memorable.
Anyway (in no real order (somewhat chronological)),…
- Pooh (Winnie the) — I liked Pooh from an early age; I shared his love of honey and whimsy. (I vaguely disliked most of the other characters, but some I found especially annoying.) When I was older, I read The Tao of Pooh and realized his influence on me was more profound than I realized. I’ve always seen his mono-block solidity as a goal I struggle to achieve.
- Superman — Well, who doesn’t. Or at least, who didn’t. Our deconstructive modern we’re all shit ethic often disdains him as too ideal and a goodie two shoes. But I think ideals are worthy goals. As with Pooh, I’ll never reach that mountain top, but the climb is worthy.
- Sherlock Holmes — I revere ability, and I especially revere intellectual ability. I also revere fixers and solvers, so I quite like detective fiction. Holmes got there first, so he wins the listing, but Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot is on equal footing in my mind. (In fact, Poirot is a lot more fun than Holmes, and Christie was a better writer than Doyle.)
- The Saint (Simon Templer) — I first discovered him in the books by Leslie Charteris and took to him big time. A modern Robin Hood — a combination of James Bond and Raffles. (Which, incidentally, I’ve recently finally gotten around to reading those classic stories by E.W Hornung.)
- Perry Mason — Despite my love of rogues, I’ve always been a sucker for law enforcement and courtroom drama. (See this post and this post.)
- Spenser — Robert B. Parker’s Boston PI — it’s not clear whether Spenser is the guy’s first or last name; it’s the only one ever given. It appears to be his last, because the choice is between his intimates calling him by his last or relative strangers calling him by his first.
- Margaret Houlihan — So not my type in so many ways, but the character created by Loretta Swit is so amazing she won my heart. She became one of my favorite TV characters. (See this post.) As with all the others on this list, she has in common competence, another quality I revere.
- Greg House, MD — For one thing, House is a deliberate analog of Sherlock Holmes. For another, while not admirable or a great role model, I see more of myself in Greg House than any other fictional character I know. (See this post.)
- Captains Kirk & Picard — I’ve posted about Star Trek so much, I shouldn’t need to say much here. Kirk, in particular, was special to me. (See this post.)
- Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs — I get him. I even agree with most of his rules.
I hadn’t really planned it that way, but it’s ten.
And on that note, I’ll call it a post.
Stay tenuous, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.