Top 20 things to do before you turn 2000
top 20 things to do before you turn 2000
10 Things To Do Before You Die
In 1902. as he lay dying at the age of 48, Cecil Rhodes could look back on a not undistinguished career. He had made a vast fortune in gold and diamonds. He had built railroads through the wilderness and become one of the century’s great rulers. He had created an empire, which is more than your average 48-year-old has on his rsum. But Rhodes was not going gentle into any good night. On his deathbed he was heard muttering, “So little done, so much to do.”
What did he mean? It’s possible he wanted still more money or land or power–maybe he was the one workaholic who really spent his last minutes wishing he’d spent more time at the office. But at that moment most people worry about a different kind of “To Do” list. When Jos Mart named the things that every man ought to do before he dies, the list did not include “Liberate a country.” The hero of Cuban independence named three more important tasks: Plant a tree, write a book, have a son. That’s an excellent start. Here are ten more.
Make a pilgrimage. The destination might be a traditional one such as Jerusalem or Rome or Mecca. It might be a site of prehistoric rituals, like Stonehenge or Machu Picchu. For nature-worshippers it could be an African savanna or Amazonian rain forest; for music-lovers it could be La Scala or Bayreuth. The goal is a cathedral you hold sacred, a place where you can feel part of something larger. The reward is a moment, whether it’s hearing the “Gloria” at St. Peter’s or watching a gazelle take its first step, that you won’t need a video camera to capture.
Eat a meal good enough to be your last. When the end comes for you, there is a distinct possibility that you will be in no position to enjoy white truffles. But if you plan ahead carefully–if you eat them now–you will not die feeling cheated. Think of it as death insurance and pay no attention to those numbers on the right side of the menu.
Keep in mind the two versions of William Pitt’s dying words. The grand version of his deathbed scene in 1806 is that the British prime minister, disillusioned by Napoleon’s successes, expired murmuring, “My country, oh, how I leave my country!” The less grand version is that his last words were: “I think I could eat one of Bellamy’s veal pies.” If you have any doubt as to which version is more believable, you need to start reexamining your priorities.
Climb your own Mount Ventoux. It has been said that the Renaissance began with Petrarch’s ascent of this peak in Provence in the 1330s. At the time, climbing a mountain was not something people went on vacation to do. Mountains were considered dangerous and useless. Mountains could even be a sinful distraction from God, as Petrarch interpreted a passage in Augustine rebuking men who “admire the high mountains.” The poet tried to tell himself that he should be looking inward at his soul–the medieval view.
But the ever-curious Petrarch nonetheless climbed 6,000 feet and marveled at a new vista. “What I had read of Athos and Olympus seemed less incredible as I myself witnessed the same things,” he wrote. Today you can have the same view easily enough–there’s a road and restaurant at the peak–but that’s not really the point. The point is to climb something you were afraid to climb and see something new.
Memorize a poem and pass it on. The most obvious choice is a performance during courtship, and it’s hard to go wrong with Byron’s “She walks in beauty, like the night.” For more of an edge, try Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress.” But it can be for anyone at anytime. Teach children the opening lines of The Canterbury Tales, or get their blood flowing with Kipling’s “If.” You can do more for an ailing friend with Keats than with a Hallmark card. Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium” can enliven a journey on any waters, and it will never be forgotten if you recite it on the Bosporus.
Make an enemy for life. A gentleman has been defined as someone who never gives pain to anyone unintentionally. This leaves plenty of leeway for deliberate rudeness toward someone you can’t stand. Stand up to a bully; speak out against a fraud; fight off a rival for a prize. Care enough about something to make someone mad. An enemy helps you define yourself. As Schopenhauer said, “We can come to look upon the deaths of our enemies with as much regret as we feel for those of our friends, namely, when we miss their existence as witnesses to our success.”
See for yourself that the earth is round. The surest way is to set sail in one direction and not stop until you’re home again. For a cheaper, although not quite as direct, method, journey north of the Arctic Circle around the summer solstice and spend a night (ideally in a hot tub) watching the sun circle above the horizon.
Take someone you love to theCamera degli Sposi. There may be more important works of art, like the David or the Last Supper or the Sistine Chapel, but for sheer charm there’s nothing like these 15th-century frescoes by Mantegna. You find them not in a mobbed museum but in a quiet jewel box, a small chamber in the ducal palace of Mantua. The brightly colored paintings literally shimmer with inlaid gold and lapis. The paintings depict nobility, courtiers, children, dwarves, horses, dogs–all watched over not by a stern God but by an assortment of famously playful putti on the ceiling. The cherubs also seem to be looking down on some life-affirming activities, which is why it’s called the Room of the Bride and Bridegroom.
Defy gravity. Yes, it’s the most drearily immutable law on the planet, but on your deathbed it would be good to recall a momentary rebellion–one sky dive out of a plane, one plunge on a bungee cord, one ride on a parasail. For the ultimate in simplicity and pleasure, paraglide off Baba Dag, a 6,000-foot-high peak rising straight above the coast of southern Turkey. Just make sure that you have a professional pilot strapped in the harness of your parachute. The two of you take a few running steps and leap into the void, at which point the pilot and the wind take over. You soar a mile above the ocean, then slowly circle for 20 minutes as the pilot guides you to a leisurely landing on the beach, whereupon gravity takes over again.
Let someone else have the chance you missed. Maybe it will be one of the things on this list, like a trip you always meant to take but which eventually becomes impossible. With age come limitations. But with age also come wisdom and money. When it’s too late for you, give someone younger what you always wanted.
Comments are turned off for this post.
top 20 things to do before you turn 2000:10 Things To Do Before You Die In 1902 . as he lay dying at the age of 48, Cecil Rhodes could look back on a not undistinguished career. He had made a vast fortune in gold and diamonds. He had