Lists, lists and more lists

2019-11-30 @Blog

Everything is a list. If it doesn’t appear one, it can be reframed in terms of a list. Some lists are more generalized. Some feature specific properties. The form of abstraction makes the only difference.

Lists can comprise other lists. And so on it proceeds, recursively, fractally. A singleton item too makes a list.

(For the sake of discussion, let’s restrict our attention to finite lists. Otherwise, we venture into set theory, the Russel’s paradox, and effectively nowhere.)

Computer code is a list. Algorithms are lists. The Lisp language makes this explicit via the easily parsed parenthesized representation. Other languages rely on alternative measures to separate or compose lists. But the underlying phenomenon doesn’t change. From high-level instructions, to symbolic, to the byte-chunked words, down to the individual bits, lists are first class citizens.

It follows that anything we know to be representable by a computer has a list form.

Music has an equivalent list representation. While classical music notation may look too ambitious for a list, it can be restructured functionally in a similar spirit to computer code. Now, at a lower level, we operate at sound frequencies, these too representable in terms of lists.

Images are lists of pixels and color codes.

Network transmissions are lists of packets and metadata.

Electron flow and power are no exception.

Any branch or abstraction of mathematics lends itself to a list.

Literature, academic publications, self-development books, journalism, birthday cards, tweets are all lists of prose.

Sonnets, haiku, or any poetry are all particular or more generalized kinds of embellished prose.

The coffee I just prepared is a list. Any chemical interaction, be it of water and caffeine, or photosynthesis, lends itself to a list.

A shopping list is a list.

Our human genome is a list.

If we were to simulate the entire world in the matrix (if not already the case), the simulation too would structure a list.

This showcase of lists is a list.

I love lists … Especially the lists in their primitive representation. A one-dimensional bullet point list of words or compact phrases is my preferred.

Most of my writings initiate as these primitive lists. This abstraction from the final presentation medium makes for ease of versatility.

I’m always creating, modifying and discarding lists. I do it everywhere: in restaurants, at the coffee counter, at festivals, in the forest, or spontaneously on the street if thought strikes.

I usually carry some paper medium and a pen, and if not, these objects are easily obtainable wherever there are people. Granted, sometimes this becomes awkward. The other day, I asked to buy a pen that I’d earlier borrowed at the buffet checkout counter, unwilling to proceed to a store. (My pens constantly dry out. I exhausted four in one month.) The lady gave me an uncomfortable stare, as if I’d asked her to donate an organ, but ultimately obliged.

The habit has probably turned into a clinical mania. Yet it’s necessary. This is how I manage to frequently write.

I interact with lists on index cards, leaflets of paper, napkins, notebooks, and empty spaces of books I write in. I interlace lists on top of other lists. I compose lists in a VIM buffer, such as this one here.

It seems my existence revolves heavily around list manipulation. And that is fine by me. I find it not such a grim existence.

My word of encouragement: embrace lists. Create them, interact with them often. Here I offer a small handful of list ideas from my collection.

Questions, comments? Connect.