The Top 10 Lists of All Time

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The world of
bloggers seem to be firmly divided into two groups: those who hate
lists and those who like lists. This being a list of two puts me
firmly in the latter camp.

Those who
hate lists.
I get a lot of criticism for some of my posts. I’ve
used lists on only about 20% of my posts, no more than that. But
because of this, some people comment, “oh, there goes James
again – using lists.” As if there’s some sort of
intellectual laziness in neatly organizing material with a common
theme in the form of a list. Any book with a table of contents,
of course, does this as well.

But there seems
to be some intellectual snobbery, as if its an accusation when someone
uses a list and others point it out. “Why couldn’t he
use a bunch of paragraphs instead?”

Those who
like lists.
I like my ideas to be easily read. There’s
a lot of competition for what your eyes can look at. It’s easy
to click away. Even on my browser right now I have about 12 tabs
open. It takes seconds for me to move from one tab to the next.
Lists allow your eyes to dance down the page. It allows the blogger
to give the reader a roadmap on how to speed read through a post.
I’m more than happy when people read every word in a post of
mine (and I do think every word is important) but I understand that
people are busy. Perhaps they will read the highlights, the important
points, first, and then read more deeply later or more deeply the
topics that most interest them.

And bloggers
aren’t the first to realize that lists are an important historic
tradition for holding people’s attention and getting an important
point across. Here are 10 other lists that have changed the course
of history.

1) The Ten
Commandments.
Moses knew what he was doing. He has to organize
an obedient society around a bunch of renegades in the desert who
had known nothing in their lives other than slavery. So he gave
ten simple rules and called it “the Ten Commandments”
and, as Moses said, they were written by God so you better pay attention.
Very simple. Moses, with his one blog post may have been one of
the best bloggers of all time. To a large extent, all law ever since
has been roughly based on the Ten Commandments who brought down
from is little hiking trip in the mountains.

2) The 8-Fold
Path.
Perhaps the best entrepreneur in history. Buddha taught
a very esoteric path of meditation, silence, and what he called
“Nirvana”. But he knew that would not appeal to the masses.
Why did he need the masses? Because he was always traveling between
warring kingdoms and he was afraid he would die if the masses didn’t
recognize his guru status. So he came up with a simpler version
of Buddhism . A way to follow the tenets of the Buddha even if you
weren’t willing to sit down for 15 hours straight and stare
at the center of your head and attempt to achieve Nirvana. He called
this the “8-Fold path” and similar to the “ten commandments”
it obtained a somewhat easy-to-follow moral code that, at the very
least, would put you closer to the path of enlightment in future
times. And if 8 items were too much for people he also had “The
Four Noble Truths”. [See also, "Was
Buddha a Bad Father
"]

3) The Bill
of Rights.
America has just broken free from monarchy. The idea
of “freedom” was important. But the founding fathers couldn’t
just say, “ok, you’re free, go ahead and do whatever you
want. Nor could they write a manifesto like Jefferson did with the
Declaration of Independence because, let’s face it, the Declaration
is boring and unreadable and most adults only remember the first
few words. But we all pretty much know the Bill of Rights. Why?
Because it is structured in a simple to read list. It’s the
first 10 amendments to the Constitution and written at the same
time as the Constitution. If it wasn’t a list, we wouldn’t
remember it so easily. [See also, "Is
July 4 a Scam
"]

4) The Yoga
Sutras.
Written by Patanjali in 300 BC it can be argued that
all modern yoga stems from this. It was 195 lines. Again, structured
as a list. It was sort of a marketing response to Buddhism’s
8-Fold path (there are “8 limbs” described in the Yoga
Sutras as the path to yogic enlightenment). Buddha was stealing
away so many devotees from Hinduism that I suspect Patanjali said
enough is enough and threw together these 8 limbs in 195 lines.
It basically repeats Buddha’s 8 fold path (more or less) and
also throws in the fact that you need physical activity (which later
became what we now call “yoga”). [See also, "How
I’ve been Humiliated by Yoga
"]

5) The Ninety-Five
Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences.
Martin Luther
couldn’t just write: “Here’s why I hate the Catholic
Church”. He wrote “95 Theses”. A list. He knew it
would be easier for people to digest that way. And digest they did.
It split Catholicism right in half after 1500 years of unity in
Europe. It took a list to do that. If all he did was write, “well,
I think baptism is silly” he probably would’ve been killed
and we never would’ve heard from him again. Instead. “95
Theses….” and he tacked it onto the equivalent of blogger.com
(the church wall) and Protestantism was off to the races.

Read
the rest of the article

October
26, 2011

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