“The list doesn’t destroy culture; it creates it. Wherever you look in cultural history, you will find lists. In fact, there is a dizzying array: lists of saints, armies and medicinal plants, or of treasures and book titles. Think of the nature collections of the 16th century. My novels, by the way, are full of lists. . . .“We have always been fascinated by infinite space, by the endless stars and by galaxies upon galaxies. How does a person feel when looking at the sky? He thinks that he doesn’t have enough tongues to describe what he sees. Nevertheless, people have never stopping describing the sky, simply listing what they see. . . .
“We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That’s why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore, no end. It’s a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don’t want to die.”
Interesting, yes? Something so very common as a list is actually a framework for our society and a construct by which we deal with our mortality. Even in our personal lives, we live by lists every day: what to do, what to buy, what to say.
We make lists so we don’t forget what’s important.
The same could be said about our lists here at CaPC—we don’t want what’s been important in culture to be forgotten or missed. We list what’s important in culture, documenting it again, thereby increasing its weight.
Eco’s premise is that we make lists about things that are infinite, and therefore, living by lists makes us feel infinite too. In some ways, documenting beauty and fascinations about creation (both the man-made in culture and the God-made in nature) is a way we enter into the infinite, for both culture and nature weave throughout history, stretching back before we entered the timeline and certain to continue on past our exit. List making gives us a mark on the timeline, a spot to declare what’s worthy of time and attention—not only the items on the list but also the one who crafted it.