Italian polymath, Umberto Eco, is currently curating a new exhibition at the Louvre in Paris, and, kind of like Cracked, this exhibition is all about lists. But don’t get too excited. They aren’t exactly putting up the Hottest Celebrity Mistresses up in the hallowed halls of one of the most famous museums on the planet. These lists are a little more cerebral. 

In an interview with Spiegel, Eco reveals some of his interest in lists from a cultural perspective, what they mean to how we see the world, and why Google is so very, very dangerous (unless you’re looking up very important things about parakeets). Because we’re not exactly Italian polymaths ourselves, we’ll let Umberto do most of the talking here. 

On why you like lists (kind of)

"I realized immediately that the exhibition would focus on lists. Why am I so interested in the subject? I can’t really say. I like lists for the same reason other people like football or pedophilia. People have their preferences."

On why you like lists (really)

"The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order — not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries. There is an allure to enumerating how many women Don Giovanni slept with: It was 2,063, at least according to Mozart’s librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte."

On why Google is a tragedy

"…Google makes a list, but the minute I look at my Google-generated list, it has already changed. These lists can be dangerous — not for old people like me, who have acquired their knowledge in another way, but for young people, for whom Google is a tragedy. Schools ought to teach the high art of how to be discriminating."

There you have it. Eco goes on to enumerate a number other important facets of lists, interesting ways about looking at art and history, and surprising cultural insights. Definitely go here for the full interview and possibly the revelation that you’re not that different from your medieval ancestors – just more electrified. Have yourself a small slice of humble pie – you very well could be the worst man ever.  

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