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To Do List

by on March 15, 2017

                                                                                                To Do List

                                                                                       by Marco M. Pardi

“Any damned fool can write a plan. It’s the execution that gets you all screwed up.” James F. Hollingsworth. On Strategy: a Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War, 4, 1982

All comments welcome.  To those readers who have been hesitant to comment or ask questions, please be assured you may do so freely. In recent days several new people have signed on as followers, enabling them to comment freely, and it is hoped they will. All previous posts are open for comment by clicking on “uncategorized”. Reader participation keeps this site vibrant. MMP


Not long into my first military assignment I decided to keep a daily to do list.  Looking back on this I suspect it was a way of asserting and maintaining my personhood in a strictly regimented environment.  So, while my on- duty time was almost entirely out of my hands, I was attempting to feel my off-duty time was more than just waiting to go back on duty. And, working exclusively at night – six nights on followed by three nights off, I potentially had time to engage in activities considered normal by most people.  But, finding “normal” was not easy at first.   

Of course, my vision of what I could possibly do was circumscribed by the reality of living in an enclave in the midst of an unpredictable and often hostile host culture. Off base, something as innocuous as allowing one’s gaze to fall on a female would result in serious attack, even death in a couple of cases I knew of.  Not that I ever listed gazing at females as something to do that day. And, finances and transportation curtailed a few plans.

On the desert at night I sometimes listened to Radio Moscow. The music was great. But I also heard of various Soviet 5 Year plans.  These seemed a good idea, and I wondered if I could make a 5 Year To Do list. Reality set in when I discovered even my 5 Day plans fell apart.  Oh, I took college credit courses in the Armed Forces program with University of Maryland and Air University.  I took courses I enjoyed though I had a vague but growing notion of becoming an Anthropologist some day.  But the bulk of my many courses, especially through Air University, were in the Intelligence field.  I also read at least one book per week. Albert Camus’ L’Etranger  and Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon come to mind. I read Camus in the original French, but an English version has since come available. I do not recommend either book unless you have a strong resolve to not slit your own throat.

As time went on I experienced a great broadening and some pruning of my life views; it was more a matter of several doors opening rather than of a few doors closing.  But sometimes we seem to perceive the door after it is already closed to us.  A college housemate asked me to help him meet a graduation requirement of a 300 level course in Anthropology; his soon coming degree would be in Inter-Disciplinary Social Sciences.  I suggested an Old World Archaeology course I would be taking, saying I could help him get through it.

Not only did he get and read the textbooks before class started, he brilliantly excelled in the class and constantly raved about how he had found his true self.  Alas, with funds sufficient to cover only the remainder of his IDSS degree and the Draft breathing down his neck he could not basically start over to pursue his new reality. He graduated as a person with a degree in one field while his personhood was in another. The 4 Year Plan he hoped to march along turned into a forced march to a place he belatedly realized he did not want to go. He expressed dismay for years.

In recent years we’ve seen the impetus for such planning moving further down through the K-12 ranks.  My older granddaughter was drawn to medicine before entering high school.  Consequently, she enrolled in a special high school dedicated to the medical profession. Now, nearing her Summa Cum Laude graduation from University pre-med, she is considering various medical school options.  Along the way she has acquired related certifications and experience including international medical trips to underserved populations in Central America. But she is also considering time between college and med school.  Today I suggested her entry into the competition for a Fulbright or Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University; she is more than qualified for consideration and returning with that degree would open any medical school door. Fortunately, I see no indication she has any doubts about her calling; she has narrowed it down to Emergency Room physician, which can be pretty brutal depending on the setting.  Grady hospital in Atlanta is known locally as the Atlanta Knife & Gun Club.

In my experience, both as a student and a college instructor, I advocate at least a compulsory year between high school and college, preferably with international exposure.  I took my daughter to twelve countries before she finished high school. In my personal experience I left college in my freshman year because I could not possibly survive in a dysfunctional household and college elsewhere would not have freed me from that situation. The next four years of military service and travel enabled me to find my identity and to find, by listening and looking around, what I did not want to become.  The great majority of my best college students had also spent at least a year discovering what they did not want. Through that process, they brought to class perspectives, experience and insights they likely would not have otherwise gained.

Now in my retirement years – which are far busier than I expected, I again find myself making To Do lists from time to time.  I was a bit resistant to this at first, the Alzheimer’s image and all, but I show no signs of that.  In fact, in this current climate of chaos, dishonesty, uncertainty and outright unveiled hatred I’ve started pondering a To Not Do list. Topping the list would be NOT watching any news presentation by Trump, or his minions, especially Sean Spicer. But then, how would I get my information about their doings?  I implied in my just previous article that political leaders in a functioning democracy are in those positions as a result of the Informed Consent of the voters. In this most recent case it is pretty clear who did the informing: Alt-Right “news” outlets, corporate shills, religious leaders who could not understand they were being used, and, apparently, the Russians.

Following on the dictates of this cabal, I should next list, Discontinue writing and signing of environmental petitions, animal welfare petitions, and letters objecting to the policies of this regime in numerous areas. After all, without a giant check appended it is most unlikely any Republican recipient will even open my correspondence.

But such a To Not Do list would be precisely what this regime wants. Since it is abundantly clear the regime will do, or try, anything it wants despite the input from the public and the scientific community, the press briefings, the town halls, the rallies, and the “talking points” are merely theater – the same kind of theater found so appealing by the less educated who voted the regime into power.  The currency of this administration is ignorance.  The regime was brought to power through ignorance and it will remain in power through ignorance.

And so, I return to how I opened this piece: the keeping of a To Do list is a way of asserting and maintaining my personhood in a strictly regimented environment. I will continue to do so, and topping the list will be: Resist.

I earlier cited L’Etranger and Darkness at Noon as books about which I cautioned the reader.  But as I was writing this the Best Seller lists are showing the immense call for books such as 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Animal Farm.  I’ve read them and they are quite good. But they also enable the reader to displace the setting to a totally dystopian Other.  I now reassess my earlier caution against those two books above.  Put them atop your To Do List, and watch how your list suddenly grows before your eyes. There are those in power who are actively seeking to close more doors to us while opening only those they narrowly approve. To Not Do: Do not let yourself accept a life in which your personhood feels the importance and integrity of living one way but you decide to accept the dictatorial deceits and pressures to live another way.     


From → Uncategorized

  1. Julie permalink

    Hi Marco, beautifully written with great insight once again. I for one, am fond of a to do list, helps keep my head in focus of what I need to be thinking about each day, This article reminds me of my son who having completed his degree at Uni and obtaining his dream job on lots of money quickly realized it wasn’t what he expected (even though the negatives were made aware to him). He then obtained a job he has been content in for the last few years, but now feeling the need to challenge himself further, yesterday sat the aptitude test with the defence force – the result being that he excelled in this test and was told he could go into any area he wanted to, including being a pilot. He was quite shocked and now needs to really think about what he wants/direction to go into. So in relation to your article, your to do list is a guide only and life happens and things we can’t conceive take shape, it highlights the bigger plan we can’t see (well that’s my take on it). Mentioning about books on here, I’ve recently read “Into the Magic Shop” by Dr James Doty – what a beautiful, uplifting and grounding book, and finally I really like your idea of the not to do list, especially your final statement “Do not let yourself accept a life………. ” This statement is perfect!


    • Thank you, Julie. Your son is quite impressive, in fact amazing. I would love to hear his thoughts as he works through his wants and his potential directions. Of course, as you clearly point out, these are not just highly subjective but also potentially shaped by larger circumstances we do not always see. Please extend to him my very best thoughts.

      I will look for that book you recommend (on my To Do List) And I assure you it will not be a way of dodging those things I must do.

      Thank you again for a very inspiring comment. Marco


  2. Wow. Just looked up that book. Dr Doty is a neurosurgeon who examines personhood. What a fine recommendation. Thank you, Julie.


    • Julie permalink

      Yes Marco it is a wonderful book – im sure you will enjoy it ☺ thank you so much for your beautiful reply


  3. I fondly recall the numerous times that you lit the fire of my passion while I sat in your introductory anthropology class and listened to your discourse over many various topics. I had finally found something inside the mundane walls of a community college that called to me with purpose and helped me move more fully into my authentic self. I’m reminded of your urging me to pursue a degree in medicine because of the opportunities it could open up – much like my mother did – and now I’ve come full circle to bring my focus back to health and wellness. However, it’s not western medicine that needs more doctors (perhaps more GOOD doctors), but traditional, ancient, healing modalities that are ripe to be re-discovered, understood in new communities, and utilized in conjunction with other healing methods to provide for holistic wellness in new cultural contexts. After all, western medicine may save your life, but what’s the point of living if you don’t feel alive, happy, connected, and resonate with a purpose that makes your soul shine? Hence, my pull towards SPIRIT medicine. Currently I’m working in the modality of music, sound healing, and vibrational therapy, but every modality has it’s place, purpose, and usefulness in certain applications.

    Your final “To Not Do” suggests just this – living as your authentic self and not as prescribed by others. To me this means to come from and operate within a paradigm of compassion and love as opposed to fear and hatred. It seems that more people are waking up and taking action as a result of the emerging political, religious, medicinal, environmental, and feminist climates that will far outweigh the negative outcomes of the current circumstances. While these forces and settings may seem entangled and contradictory, operating in opposing and conflicting ways, the truth of the matter is that even the books that are painful to read and the situations that are difficult to stomach, negative thoughts and feelings, dislikes, insecurities and personal flaws are ALL pushing individuals and the collective towards awakening to love and the evolution of consciousness to the highest good. IMHO, this awakening and growth is ultimately inescapable, already happening, and the process can only be slowed or quickened. Perhaps it’s even built-in by design, and maybe it’s even part of the purpose of existence in this physical realm altogether.

    TO DO: Discover, move into, and live as my authentic self so that I can better serve others and the planet.

    Release things that no longer serve me in this endeavor (fear, hatred, the illusion of duality).

    Check – and repeat…


    • Thank you so much, John. You were equally an inspiration to me. I think too few students realize the importance they have to their instructors, and fewer still ever hear back of it. As you know, I agree with you but I fear even the relatively short time this regime is in office will do harm greater than we can undo. There is no Second Nature. And, even while humanity does progress forward as you suggest, there are still many hostiles in our path.

      I’m so glad you have joined in the discussion. The value you brought to our classes continues. Marco


    • Julie permalink

      Wow John, your comment is spot on, your philosophy needs to be screamed to the world – you have completely nailed it!


      • Marco: True, there is no Second Nature, but nature has a way of self-cleansing, self-pruning, and achieving homeostasis despite deviations from the path of awakening, again and again ad infinitum.

        Julie, I’m humbled that this message resonates with you. Feel free to pass it on in your own special way. ; )


  4. I tend to be a slow, methodical thinker. Whenever I have a project to complete, lists (To-do and otherwise), outlines, and even note cards are my friends. It’s easier to see the logic in an action or decision when it sits in front of you in black and white; details are less likely to be lost. I also like the idea of a not-to-do list; it helps to prune out the unnecessary, and to prioritize the rest.

    Most of my goals lead to some sort of self-improvement, whether it be physical, intellectual, or spiritual. The first step in self-improvement is self-acceptance. Each small step in any arena seems to make the next step easier, whether it be in the same area, or another.

    Goals without plans, and plans without action, are just dreams.


    • Thank you, Rose. I also am a visual thinker. Putting things on paper, or a blackboard, helps me chart and examine the logic.I also like to chart a side by side cost – benefit table. That really helps the perspective.


  5. Gregg permalink

    I hope the people who have picked up Animal Farm since the election recognize that likely many of them, up until November 5th, were the Donkey who saw the danger coming but either due to indifference or some inaccurate appraisal of their countrymen/women didn’t take the time to make a choice at the polls. I imagine a number of people who are disgusted by the present Head of State didn’t even bother to go out and vote for an opposition Congress much less any local government race that arguably affects people much more directly more often.

    I had my own realization half-way through my geology coursework that not many employers pay people to go out and look at exotic volcanic or metamorphosed rocks and that would be my avocational hobby. Studying landslides and contaminant plumes would bring in the income with much less excitement but the kitchen would be better stocked for it.

    Excellent post as always. I would love to see some of the looks you received reading Camus in the Air Force.


    • Thank you, Gregg. I’m certain you are right: there are likely many who will not now admit they didn’t vote, and brought this on themselves. Yes, our interests and our realities get sorted out in the work world pretty quickly. How often I’ve heard someone say, This is the work I do, but it is not who I am.

      I did take heat in the Air Force for having the books on Marx, etc. My answer was, You want me to find and kill these people so I thought I should know something about them. Silence.


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