the myth of getting even

This is not a tale of revenge, nor it is the tale of a quest for number and arithmetic. Rather, it is an explication of the obvious. 

There will never be enough time. 

Getting even, catching up, these are but myths, stories we tell ourselves. I think I’ve written before about the danger inherent in going through all of the lists and making the one Great List That Lists Them All, and then becoming paralyzed by the volume of things to be done.

Nonetheless, I do it from time to time, and I’ll admit that it’s possible to form the habit of making and remaking lists, and lose sight of the fact that the lists are not an end in themselves. The lists are but a tool for doing, but making the list and checking it again and again is sometimes easier than the doing, as much as it can feel like doing.

So how to fight this project volume paralysis. I could go find a book and read it, either a book related to the topic at hand or not, and I do both quite a lot too. But as much as I enjoy and value reading, I do have to admit that reading in itself doesn’t take projects forward.

The tasks I set myself, the tasks others set for me with or without my explicit consent, the tasks that arise from the day job and hobbies, there will never be enough time to do them all. To finish the list. And I’m glad about that.

Yes, there are things that have been on the list for too long and that require some immediate attention. Yes, there are things that perhaps should be taken off the list, set on the side of the road and walked away from, though I do find that very difficult to do.

But I like the unavoidable fact that there will always be something more to work on. Ideas beget ideas, but it also takes time and effort to go from idea to finished product, be it a story idea or a math idea, or even the idea for a blog post. And yes, work lists have a different flavor to them, subject as they are to other people’s time constraints.

The quest for immortality is a common trope in science fiction, going back to the Fountain of Youth and before. But immortality wouldn’t help here. I suspect that if there are immortals out there in the wider universe, their lists will be long long long indeed, and this is a conversation they would also have had more than once.

And so now, I go boldly forth into the day, seeing what I can do on the list, advancing if not finishing, and I wish you all the best with your list as well.


~ by Jim Anderson on 15 April 2019.

One Response to “the myth of getting even”

  1. […] wrote a few weeks ago about the myth of getting even. And though I had set my 2018 reading project as the complete Vonnegut, I am behind. But I’ve […]

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