Sometimes I visualise this afterlife as an austere 1970s science lab, with ranges of analogue counting wheels, each halted eternally at their final numbers. Other times I imagine it as a live TV event: an enthusiastic presenter delivers a piece-to-camera from the top of Telecom Tower, finger pressed to her earpiece and declaring that, “Yes, the results are in!”
In this great auditing house in the sky, every metric is recorded: the number of times we went to the bathroom, the number of hours we slept, the number of good or bad decisions made, the number of moral victories or ethical betrayals.
Some of the metrics won’t really matter. Number of blinks or heartbeats are beyond my control and do not mean much either way. But some of the metrics in this Valhalla databank will be causes of pride or shame.
A statistic for which I—the editor of New Escapologist, a magazine about the exercise of free will (whether imagined or actual)—would take pride in being high would be number of days of freedom. Every day spent living freely is a victory. If the celestial auditors are indeed watching, I hope they’re able to record that the total number of these victories outweighs the number of days spent serving forces other than my moral will.
A statistic I would like to keep low is "Number of intentions unrealised". It’s very acceptable to abandon something deliberately, or to reform a plan partway through. But there's nothing more shameful than when a plan falls to the wayside, is forgotten about, or is simply never taken seriously as a possibility.
Alas, there is probably no afterlife and we’ll never be given such a cache of perfect data (and if we are, it’ll be largely pointless once our lives are over). If we want to collect data about our living patterns, we must simply resolve to document more. A longhand journal will provide qualitative data. A tally against certain metrics will provide the quantitative. At the end of a given period, we can analyse the data we've gathered; draw conclusions, make predictions, and make changes to our habits.
To measure my “unrealised intentions” and to keep this statistic small, I have started maintaining a “Maybe Someday” list. Any ideas I have, whether big or small, go onto this list. I will later incorporate them into my plans or decisively obliterate them from my ambitions once and for all.
I’m also trying to reconnect with things I enjoyed in childhood: dinosaurs, chemistry, puppets, astronomy, fossils, wildlife. Maybe this way I can identify some early ambitions never acted upon, and have them scored from my shameful tally of forgotten plans.
There is something vaguely perverse about analyzing such water under the bridge. It’s like making notches on a bedpost, or examining the fresh contents of a handkerchief. But so what? A toilet that analyses one's poop for nutritional excesses and deficiencies would be a wonderful thing. There's no such thing as "TMI" when making changes to our lives is concerned.
So what data would you record? What would you like to change?
Robert Wringham is a humourist, travelling performer, and the editor of New Escapologist: a magazine that celebrates 'flight' over 'fight'. The sixth issue of this publication is now available, as well as a growing wealth of related online content at www.newescapologist.co.uk