I’ve been reading an article where The Thick Of It creator Armando Iannucci describes the ‘strange liberation’ of admitting he’s never going to get round to watching The Sopranos on DVD.
It’s actually freeing to realise you’re never going to catch up with everything you could, or should watch, listen to or do. Here some thoughts…
1) I will never hear/watch/read everything on my ‘to do’ lists
So there is no point knocking myself out trying. The only real purpose that these lists serve is to stop me being aimless when I AM looking for something to read, watch or listen to.
2) I already have too much
If I add no more music to my collection, I will not be alive long enough to listen to all the music I have already – CD Baby President, Brian Felsen
Check your Media Player. Here’s mine.
If we dedicate our lives to trawling through our music we’ll still only listen to everything a few times. Armando talks about “the strange feeling of depression [of iPod users] – having all music in their pocket, they find it more difficult to be entirely satisfied with the track they’ve chosen to listen to….because logic dictates there has to be something even better somewhere else”. To heavily paraphrase C.S. Lewis, we don’t need to listen to a lot of music as much as listen to a small amount of great music a lot of times.
3) Life is too short
There’s a season of life where you should try everything and persevere with it if you don’t like it or understand it at first. Hopefully you have older people in your life to encourage you in that way. But I am 46. And while I see the merit in them, I am never going to like Miles Davis, Mozart, Eric Clapton, Opera, Frank Zappa’s guitar solos, DC Comics, Incubus or Pink Floyd. I don’t have the time to commit to a sprawling TV series in the hope it will get going by season 4. We all have a finite amount of time on this blob of spit and sand and my time is becoming finiter as we speak. So, dammit, I am never going to read an 800 page book about the Beatles that ends in 1962, no matter how definitive it is. And I feel good about that.
As Armando puts it –
Faced with an infinity of choice, I’ve discovered there is still hope. It boils down to simple mathematics. Anything we watch or read or listen to can’t possibly make the slightest dent in our backlog, since our backlog is infinite. Far from causing despair, this knowledge should liberate us to abandon the quest and revel even longer in what we have immediately to hand.
To put it another way, whether you choose to re-read Great Expectations or read the latest Margaret Drabble makes not the slightest bit of difference. You’ll be no nearer completion, so you might as well settle for whichever you really prefer.
If you are put off reading Don Quixote because you think you simply don’t have the time, think again: the dozen paperbacks or videos you would consume over the same period will bring you no nearer to total cultural fulfilment.
I especially liked this
If you go to see a film and really like it, the following week you can go back and see it again. It’s really up to you.
So here’s my action points
- Enjoy what you reading/watching/listening to right now. Really enjoy it. As if there is nothing else waiting in the queue.
- If you’re not enjoying it – get rid of it. Someone said the you should perservere with any new book ‘100 pages minus your age’. That’s a good rule of thumb.
- If you’re familiar with an musician, and you didn’t like their previous work or they no longer move you, you should be able to judge a new album by skipping through it. Doesn’t grab you? Move on! Same with genres. The more familiar you are, the quicker you can decide whether it’s worth your time.
- If you really enjoyed something, feel free to listen to it, watch it, read it again – straight away or very soon. It’s allowed!
- Try a ratio of how many favourite old books/albums/films to new ones you consume (I used to read 3 new books, then reread an old one).
- Try giving away one book/dvd/cd per week to the charity shop.