The pre-death 1001 lists

Haven’t you noticed the current trend in book publishing these days? You know, the proliferation of book titles that start with 1,001?

If you haven’t, then chances are, you’ve not been out and busy! Shame on you. You’ve not been seizing the moment as you ought to — well, as far as the Bucket List-type of writers and publishers are concerned, that is.

Let’s see what types of lists you should know (and have) before you die. There’s this 1001 Places to See Before You Die (clearly a spin-off of the old bestseller 1,000 Places to See Before You Die). This is a location-based list that has led to more specific listings of must-visit places such as 1,001 natural wonders, 1,001 historic sites, 1001 gardens, 1001 buildings, and so on.

There’s more: 1001 movies to see, 1,001 albums to listen to, 1,001 books to read, 1,001 foods to eat, 1,001 recipes to try, 1,001 wines to taste, and — get this — 1,001 golf holes you must play before you die.

Presumably, these massive lists are made to motivate people (read: the moneyed hedonists) to pursue their passions and celebrate life in the now; no use in regretting the past or worrying about the future. Life is meaningless or incomplete if you haven’t ticked off the boxes in your chosen 1001 list.

What’s with the 1,001 anyway? Why not just 100? Or better yet, a realistic 10, given the current economic gloom? Maybe it’s because using 1,001 as part of the title in these guidebooks makes great marketing. It has a certain ring to it. But 1,001 seems a bit overwhelming, don’t you think?

Will a fiftyish movie buff, for instance, be able to watch all the 1,001 recommended films in the book 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die before he/she meets his/her Creator? And is it that easy and cost-effective to get hold of copies of The Exorcist (1973), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), and The Hills Have Eyes (1977). Ah okay, there’s YouTube, where you can have a look-see of some film clips of these must-see movies. Which leads to the question: Why are they in The List in the first place?

Given you have the will (and insanity) to watch all the listed 1,001 films, are you sure you have the luxury of time to see all these cinematic treats in one lifetime? Don’t you have to take care of the kids and do some laundry in between? Or go to your chemotherapy, perhaps? And yeah, aren’t you supposed to be at the the Great Wall of China or Robert Louis Stevenson’s home in Western Samoa by now because you also bought that 1,000 Places to See Before You Die book?

But as they say, let’s seize the pleasures of the moment and never mind the dull routine that has been slowing us down. Carpe diem. That seems to be the guiding philosophy behind the 1,001 book series.

And so, when you meet again your pleasure-seeking friend, who has been pestering you with impromptu life evaluations — i.e. critiquing the drudgery of your everyday life with “You’re missing out” nonsense, followed by incessant Carpe diem lines — tell him,/her that you can’t be his/her traveling companion on call a la Morgan Freeman in The Bucket List. You just don’t have loads of time, and the clock is ticking. By the time you can say “yes” to any proposition to travel the world and behold the sights, you would probably be dead. As dead as Prince Tutankamon.

After all, you, being the Renaissance person that you are, have yet to read 1,001 books, watch 1,001 movies, listen to 1,001 albums, and try out 1,001 recipes before you can embark on 1,001 once-in-a-lifetime overseas journeys only Oprah and her kind would be able to afford.

So much to do, so little time. Oh, this pre-death pressure can be darn overwhelming.


When being too nice is no longer a virtue

When does being nice become an impediment in your relationship with others? The answer: When it already affects and stifles your self-growth.

It’s not advisable to be too nice to people all the time, experts say. One should be mindful in setting healthy boundaries. Being someone else’s doormat does not do any good to your well-being as a person. People take advantage of you, and that’s not a good thing. On the one hand, you don’t get the respect that you deserve as an individual and, as a result, you succumb to depression and/or lose self-confidence. On the other hand, you encourage others to become insensitive and ungrateful takers of your love, time, energy and money, which is a bad thing.

In their book Boundaries: When to Say Yes and When to Say No, psychologists and inspirational speakers Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend write that having clear boundaries in one’s relationships is crucial to having a healthy, balanced lifestyle. They discuss what boundaries are, how they are developed, and how to use them.

Cloud and Townsend emphasize that it’s important to draw the line in our relationships. They write: “Just as homeowners set physical property lines around their land, we need to set mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries for our lives to help us distinguish what is our responsibility and what isn’t…The inability to set appropriate boundaries at appropriate times with the appropriate people can be very destructive.”

The authors add that many Christians struggle with “tremendous confusion about when it is appropriate to set limits” and raise the following questions when faced with their obvious lack of boundaries (the book addresses these questions):

1. Can I set limits and still be a loving person?
2. What are legitimate boundaries?
3. What if someone is upset or hurt by my boundaries?
4. How do I answer someone who wants my time, love, energy, or money?
5. Why do I feel guilty or afraid when I consider setting boundaries?
6. How do boundaries relate to submission?
7. Around boundaries selfish?

Unfortunately, misinformation about the Bible’s answers to these questions has led to lots of wrong teaching about boundaries, Cloud and Townsend claim. In addition to this, they say that many clinical psychological symptoms — e.g., depression, anxiety, addictions, eating disorders, guilt problems, shame issues, marital struggles, and what-have-you — find their root in conflicts with boundaries.

While the book was written by Christian psychologists for Christian readers, everyone can benefit from the nuggets of psychological information, supplemented by Biblical wisdom, on a highly universal topic such as conflicts in relationships. Cloud and Townsend, after all, are psychologists by profession, who have used their expertise to help those miserably trapped in boundary-less relationships.

Now, reflect on how you manage your relationships. Are you pleasing your spouse too much at the expense of your personal preferences and inclinations? Are you always the one contacting your ‘friend,’ who seems to be not too keen to return your calls and answer your e-mails because “he/she is too busy and swamped with work”? Do you always find yourself in situations when you always say “yes” to people when, deep inside, you really want to say “no”? Do you always feel you have to work hard for your friendships or other relationships on a super-pleaser mode? If you have answered “yes” to most or all of these questions, then it’s time for you to take control of your life and set healthy boundaries in your relationships.

It must be emphasized, though, that it’s not bad per se to be nice to others, especially to the right people. Not at all. It’s highly recommended, actually. There seems to be a short supply of nice people in this dog-eat-dog world we live in. So when you choose to be generally nice, you’re doing all of us a favor.

However, being too nice is another thing. It ruins the balance of things, and could hurt you so deeply that it scars you for life. Pleasing others on their own terms and in their own time is not the key to true happiness.

There are lots of abusive people out there who don’t deserve your “yes” and Close-up smile. Draw the line somewhere.You do yourself a great disservice if you allow them to take you and your resources for granted all the time. Learn to say “no” when you need to.

Remember, good accounting makes good friends just as good fences make good neighbors.

How many books do you really own?

Many years ago, I heard a library science professor speak about the real concept of book ownership during a book acquisition lecture. A voracious reader, he wanted to share with his students what it truly meant to ‘own a book.’

“To own a book goes beyond purhasing a book at the bookstore and putting it on your shelf back home,” he said. “No, it’s more than that. The only time you can say you own a book is when you’ve read it from cover to cover and have mastered its content by heart.”

It was such an erudite remark that I had to share it with my sister who, like me, is a certified bookworm. “That’s a great definition,” my sister said. In the months — and years — to come, my sister and I would read each other’s book purchases and declare at the end of each reading conquest, “Hey, I own your book!”

I can’t remember how many times my sister had told me this line. She had read most of my books (mostly modern classics, humor books, how-to books, self-help bestsellers, comic books, and reference books on PR writing and journalism) more than I had read hers (mostly must-read classics). Well, with my busy schedule as a journalist at that time, I couldn’t read as many books as I wanted to. More often than not, she would own my freshly purchased book even before I had the chance to flip through the first few pages! She would sometimes tease me that she was the rightful owner of some of my books (I’ve still not yet read all the books I had bought in the past — shame on me!).

Now, here’s the funny thing: my older brother is an avid book collector. When he was still living in Manila — he now resides in the US — he would buy lots of medical books as well as Christian books, and his bedroom would eventually look like a mini library of sorts. I loved his Christian book collection and found myself poring over his books during, say, my two-hour bus journeys from our home to the office and vice versa. Eventually, I ended up becoming the real ‘owner’ of his Christian books just because he had not found the time to read most of them — even to this day. He was more a book hoarder than a reader.

Fortunately, I now have more time to ‘own borrowed books’ on a regular basis here in Switzerland — although I still buy books online and offline as I was wont to do in the past — thanks to my public library membership and my less hectic timetable.

It was great to read from start to finish, for instance, Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter’s Daughter, Soseki Natsumi’s Botchan, Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha, Mitsuyo Kakuta’s Woman on the Other Shore, Sue Townsend’s Number 10 and Rebuilding Coventry, and be able to say to myself after reading the last page of each borrowed book, “Yes, I finally own this book!”

The other day, when I returned some DVDs at the library, I spotted Alex Haley’s Roots displayed on the English section shelf. My family has a copy of that book in Manila, but I never got around to reading it in the past. What a pity.

I really want to own Roots soon, without having to buy a copy on Amazon (not yet, anyway). Owning a book has never been so practical yet meaningful at the same time. Thanks, Prof. Cobaria, for your enlightening insight.