In the 2007 blockbuster movie “The Bucket List,” two terminally ill old codgers (played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman) broke out of the hospital determined to live their last days to the fullest. The unlikely cancer-suffering pair — a four-time divorced billionaire and a blue-collar mechanic who always wanted to be a history professor — put together a “bucket list” of things to do before their time was up — that is, before they “kicked the bucket.” With their list in hand, they set out to experience everything on it. Their wild around-the-world journey included sky diving, climbing the Pyramids, visiting the Taj Mahal, flying low over the North Pole, riding motorcycles on the Great Wall of China and, ultimately, having their ashes spread at the top of the Himalayas Mountains.
Film critic Roger Ebert, who has thyroid cancer, criticized the movie’s portrayal of cancer sufferers, saying it depicts dying of cancer as “a laugh riot followed by a dime-store epiphany.” Anyone who’s had cancer (or any other potentially fatal illness) or battles it now with no hope in sight might agree with Ebert. However, looking for the silver lining in life even under the bleakest of circumstances — dealing with the cards one has been dealt — could lead these sufferers to enjoy a bit of frivolity from time to time.
Nicholson’s and Freeman’s characters’ frantic efforts to face their hopeless situation took them to several of the globe’s greatest structural masterpieces, among them many of the historic Seven Wonders of the World. This suggests that taking-in such iconic structures can be soothing to the soul and uplifting to the spirit.
Interestingly, of the original Seven Wonders of the World compiled in 225 BC by Greek engineer Philo of Byzantium (aka Philo Mechanicus), only the Egyptian Pyramids remain today. Long gone are the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Lighthouse of Alexandria, Mausoleum of Halicarnassus and Colossus of Rhodes.
Over the ages, numerous variations of Philon’s list of Seven Wonders have been assembled. In the Middle Ages, the Seven Wonders list included the Coliseum of Rome, Catacombs of Alexandria in Egypt, Great Wall of China, Stonehenge in England, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy, Porcelain Tower in Nanjing, China, and Mosque of St. Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey.
In recent years, more modern structures have been featured in various compilations. But visiting them need not wait until one is staring death in the face. A recent survey asked engineering leaders, “What Seven Wonders-type structures would you want to see and experience before you kicked the bucket?” Survey respondents said that, in addition to many of the historic Seven Wonders, they would love to visit the Eiffel Tower, the Panama Canal, the Chunnel, the Sydney Opera House, the Burj Khalifa, the Three Gorges Dam, the Akashi Kaikyo Suspension Bridge and Greece’s Parthenon. Those structures located in the U.S. and mentioned by the respondents included the Hoover Dam, the Empire State Building and the Golden Gate Bridge. Not surprisingly, these respondents recommended that no one should wait for a health crisis before experiencing these must-see modern-day Wonders of the World.
What’s on your bucket list of things to experience before you kick the bucket? What’s high among the list of great structures you’d want to experience before your career is over? And what can you do today to make your list a reality — before a crisis hits?
Richard G. Weingardt, P.E., is CEO and chairman of Richard Weingardt Consultants, Inc., a Denver—based structural engineering firm. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.