It’s meant to be a helpful tool, a memory aid, an organizer. So simple, right? If you have a lot of things to do, you write them down so you don’t forget them. Maybe you put them in your iPhone or on your iPad or some other electronic device. Maybe you have an app. Maybe you write them in a paper type planner or calendar. Or, if you’re super organized like me, your list gets scribbled on a collection of sticky notes and innocent bits of paper that just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Over the last few weeks, there has been a development worthy of a full Stephen King treatment. My harmless, helpful lists have morphed into a sentient thing that I now call The List.
This creature now has a life of its own. It evolves constantly, changing and growing. It replicates on its own, so that no matter how many items I cross off with my inadequate pen in an attempt to subdue the beast, it emerges bigger and stronger. In fact, The List has become equated in my mind with The Luggage from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.
If for some reason you are unacquainted with The Luggage, you should know that it is made of Sapient Pearwood, has a whole lot of little legs and some very sharp teeth, and that it follows its master everywhere, whether or not he wants to be followed. Here is a sample of its behavior in the book Eric, as it finds its way through thick jungle to reach Rincewind the Wizard, about to be tortured and sacrificed to a god.
“At last a frantic jaguar crashed through the undergrowth and loped down the causeway. The Luggage was a few feet behind it.
It was covered with creepers, leaves and the feathers of various rare jungle fowls, some of which were now even rarer. The jaguar could have avoided it by zigging or zagging to either side, but sheer idiot terror prevented it. It made the mistake of turning its head to see what was behind.
This was the last mistake it ever made.
“You know that box of yours?” said the parrot.
“What about it?” said Rncewind.
“It’s heading this way.”
The priests peered down at the running figure far below. The Luggage had a straightforward way of dealing with things between it and its intended destination: it ignored them.”
Luggage, like a list, is a useful thing. It’s meant to make life more organized and convenient. And it can get out of hand. Like Rincewind, I’m inclined to leave The List behind, having reached the conclusion that the help it provides might be outweighed by its sheer destructive capabilities. Also like Rincewind, I know that it’s not so easy.
The Luggage squatted in the city’s main plaza. The entire priesthood was sitting around it and watching it carefully, in case it did anything amusing or religious.
“Are you going to leave it behind?” said Eric.
“It’s not as simple as that,” said Rincewind. “It generally catches up.”
This is, unfortunately, true about The List. So, although it is very tempting to ignore the beast and spend the day pretending it doesn’t exist, I know that if I do this it will smash through whatever pleasant occupation I’ve interposed between it and me, bigger and gnarlier and much more lethal than it was when I tried to leave it behind.
I will, therefore, carry on, fighting a battle that perhaps cannot be won. Maybe.
Shhhhh. Keep this to yourself. If I just sneak off into a book perhaps it won’t notice.