Let Me Count the Ways

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How do I love Thee, let me count the ways.

When Elizabeth Barrett Browning penned the (now famous) line, one could imagine that she was yet another romantic poet in a time of many romantic poets. But this particular phrase has held sway in the some 17 decades or so since it first found its way from creator to audience. Why? Certainly it resonates as we consider the ways in which we share our love with another. But doesn’t it also get at our innate desire to create lists?

We list our top movie picks. We keep long lists of things to pick-up at the market. We create imaginary buckets into which to compile our lists of things to see and do before we die. We list our friends and our enemies. We list it all. But too often, doesn’t the list become the object in itself?  The act of creating the list becomes a substitute for actually accomplishing anything on it.

Maybe list making is simply another mark of the over-achievement driven set among us. Once, I actually made a list of all the lists that I needed to make. But aren’t lists most effective when they are used as elemental tools – as simple pneumonics to keep us on track and prevent distraction?

They are tidy devices to keep us from forgetting the point of our mission and to extend the limited powers of our own minds. Ultimately, lists are useful and authoritative mechanisms to get more done and to improve recall. Yet, they are not a substitute for doing. We are still accountable to ourselves (if not the list) to actually watch the movies, buy the groceries and jump out of an airplane.


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