Action Is Hope

Magical words from Ray Bradbury (Paris Review interview)

I don’t believe in optimism. I believe in optimal behavior. That’s a different thing. If you behave every day of your life to the top of your genetics, what can you do? Test it. Find out. You don’t know—you haven’t done it yet. You must live life at the top of your voice! At the top of your lungs shout and listen to the echoes….

Action is hope. At the end of each day, when you’ve done your work, you lie there and think, Well, I’ll be damned, I did this today. It doesn’t matter how good it is, or how bad—you did it. At the end of the week you’ll have a certain amount of accumulation. At the end of a year, you look back and say, I’ll be damned, it’s been a good year.

Life in a List

Perhaps my time at Q magazine is to blame for my obsession with lists. Four years of “100 Greatest Albums”, “20 Worst Rock Haircuts” and so forth turned my brain into a list-generating machine. I like lists, though. They reduce life to neatly quantifiable parts. Black and white. “To do” and “done”. The problem is getting sucked into the mind-set that if something doesn’t fit on, or add to, an arbitrary list it isn’t worth doing. We spend far too much time actively striving to fit ourselves into lists. Ask any resume writer: the key to selling yourself is to look great in bullet-points.

Life doesn’t work like that, though. Meaningful achievements and valuable experiences alike tend to resist being whittled down to fit into tidy lists. Not that there is anything wrong with a little list-making. Sometimes it’s nice to look back at a resume, a journal, a series of (god help us) Facebook status updates, and remember what we’ve done. But we should never confuse who we are with what we put down on a piece of paper.