Lists Rule The World

As a child I had an inexplicable apprehension against the concept of lists. It was almost on the verge of phobia. Perhaps it was a strange case of Atelophobia (fear of imperfection)

This dislike persisted until most recently, when I finally understood the appeal of creating to-do lists. I became obsessed. But in the back of my mind, I was still bothered by them. Only when I realised that it was an aesthetic displeasure; a case of Cacophobia for a particular type of “lists” rather than lists in general, things truly changed.

Simultaneously, I discovered, that not all lists are condemned to ugliness. (Bear in my this is my personal perception of lists, perhaps there are other people out there that could not think of a more beautiful list than a to-do list). The first time I consciously contemplated the value of lists was when I read Han Kang’s The White Book. It starts like this:

“In the spring, when I decided to write about white things, the first thing I did was to make a list.

Swaddling bands

Newborn gown








White bird

“Laughing whitely”

Blank paper

White dog

White hair


With each item I wrote down, a ripple of agitation ran through me. I felt that yes, I needed to write this…”

This was a deeply satisfying and wonderful list to introduce me to the realisation that lists (like most things) exist on a spectrum. A spectrum between utility and aesthetics.

Making a list is like making anything else; it requires structure: an architecture so to say. But when we speak about architecture, it is difficult to avoid prioritisation. Should the form follow function or the function follow form? If looked at from this angel, there are two categories of lists:

1. The extrinsic list, i.e. the list that lists as a means to an end. Short-term.

a. e.g. to-do lists

b. bucket lists

c. shopping lists

2. The intrinsic list, i.e. the list that lists for the sake of listing. Long-term.

a. e.g. any “list of (insert anything)”

b. list of happiness

c. list of white things

d. list of favourite words

The second type of list is beautiful, because it is conceptually curated. Its contents are not arbitrary or mundane, unlike the messy lists that comprise and dictate our days. To-do lists are repetitive, they adhere to routine, and they are a collection of short-term urgencies. Whilst, an intrinsic list, can capture the essence of an entire idea, moment, in an organised and efficient way: beautiful brevity.

To make lists of important things/events/thoughts, is to create one’s own mnemonic for life.

Lists to write (and not complete) that can create food for thoughts:

1. List of your values

2. List of favourite (books/music/anything)

3. List of happy moments/tiny joys (because happiness is not constant)

4. List of moments of growth

5. List of least favourite words

6. List of quotes

7. List of interesting topics

8. List of lists:

List of Lists found in the world:

1. Dialog

2. Playlist

3. To-do list

4. Shopping list

5. Bucket list

6. Index

7. Outlines

8. Notifications

9. Menus

10. List of fallen soldiers

11. Rankings

12. Rules

13. TBR (To be read lists)

14. List of Ingredients