Bucket Lists & an Unfinished Life

Can we learn anything from artists – painters, musicians, writers, architects?



Our bucket lists are always open and full, so it seems, and when we have the promise or the gift of a long life, it would suggest that if we remain healthy in body, mind and spirit (not to mention the wallet), we would have ample time to accomplish so many things.


If we reach a ripe older age, and we still say, “if only I had…” – we may say it with a tinge of whimsical regret, while we flip though the leaves of our memory book, reflecting on those things we opportunely experienced.

No matter how long or short our life, with or without the list, it will always remain in some form – unfinished. So with the passing of the Artist Formerly Known as Prince last week, I got to thinking about this idea of an unfinished life. When an Amy Winehouse at 27 or a Prince at 57 dies suddenly, we muse that maybe their best work or their best of life was still before them, or that so much they recorded is still in the vault.

Architect, Zaha Hadid passed away at age 65 last month, and one can surmise that her bucket list of design concepts was likely still floating around in her head. Maybe we can learn something from artists, who throughout history have died, leaving unfinished works, which may be a metaphor for an unfinished life. Reading recently the life of Titian, who lived to about age 88 (exact birth date unknown), it struck me, that even with the gift of his longevity, he left pieces unfinished.

Life’s legacy…as much about mystery

When you read stories of artists, you learn that the unfinished works in some cases may have been so because the artist was distracted – or dissatisfied with the direction the work was going and simply arrested the process. A 2015 Courtauld Gallery exhibit in London focused on its collection of art Unfinished. As Karen Serres, the curator said:

“At a more aesthetic level unfinished works have a quality and appeal all of their own. We can imagine the possibilities of what they would look like if they were finished, but at the same time they have a ghostly quality that is also very beautiful.”

Charles Dickens, The Mystery of Edwin Drood

J.W.M. Turner, Sun Setting Over a Lake

Franz Schubert, Symphony #8




Unfinished. Ghostly. Bright. Mysterious.

So it goes. Like many an opus such as these, what is so out of this world about leaving life with a bit of wonder on the wind? A suspension of things on a bucket list, a blank sheet or canvas with serendipity or happenstance on every second sheet, waiting for another spirit to pick up where we left off. Sometimes our life’s legacy can be as much about mystery as any item on a bucket list, some tick marked complete, some left un

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