TOPAZ Issue 9 / 2004
Likes And Dislikes
North American Template Homestead
Balanced nutritional habits
In the Quest of the Man
The Honour between Men
Understandings about the xx and xy gender
Success: An end result or a way of life?
Gender and Singing - a Musical Exploration

Likes And Dislikes

or an excuse for not taking responsibility for one’s actions

by Rolf Christoffersen

Many people know the feeling of triumph when their favourite team wins at sport. When the national football team wins we love it, we forgive every missed pass, lost ball, free kick and all the former defeats. But when they lose it is the opposite - we don’t like this player or that player, or the ref, the coach, the pitch or all of them together. Likes and dislikes can gather us together around certain issues that we are for or against like nothing else. We experience this every day in many ways, including the world of sport and the news reports from around the world. Depending on the powerful images shown on the screen, our likes and dislikes waver between this and that opinion, as an example during the 9/11 attack on New York and Washington.

In this article we’ll take a closer look at where our feelings of like and dislike towards our surroundings are born - namely in ourselves.

Most people in the Western world go through life without experiencing life-threatening catastrophes firsthand, as people did in New York on September 11th 2001. By and large we have everything we need in terms of food from the shops, clean water, a film on TV when we need to relax, around-the-clock news coverage, a vacation now and then when we want to get away from it all. Clothes, telephone and the internet - we have access to most of what we need. We can choose to eat fish every day, because we like fish. We can choose to leave the blue sweater in the drawer, because we like the red one better. We can choose the entertainment we like and disregard the other channels. We can read the newspaper that shares our opinions and disregard the paper with the opinions we don’t like. We do this all the time, every day we confirm to ourselves, what we like and what we are not happy with. It is most often this that determines who our friends are, for why would anyone spend time with people they did not like? What we are looking at here is the lifestyle most of us are brought up with. A lifestyle with the aim of being as comfortable as possible, where one of the most decisive ways to achieve this aim is through the parameter of likes and dislikes.

One truth governs the other truth

It is important to emphasise that I am not here suggesting that like and dislike in itself should be regarded as negative or in any way wrong. It is natural for us to experience like and dislike in most areas, as an example, when we spend time with other people. We like the spirit of community, to have someone to share experiences, feelings and thoughts with, whereas loneliness is something very few enjoy. What this article is setting out to explore and question is, what can happen when like and dislike exercises its influence throughout the whole of a person’s life!

Imagine yourself lost in the desert without water, close to dying of thirst, when a man comes by and asks you, ‘What do you like?’ Your answer would be ‘water!’ If he then says, ‘I’ve plenty of water, but it’s in a dirty cup’, without a moment’s delay you would say, ‘I don’t care. It’s water I need’.

It is often the most extreme examples that illustrate the simple truths. This example tells us that our body likes that which gives it strength and the energy to go on, whereas what we like and dislike is generally based on what we prefer. Take the example of lying in bed with flu. The body needs energy to fight the virus and demands that you relax and keep still. You, on the other hand, had plans for the day involving a lot of things that you would have preferred doing but are not able to. What these examples demonstrate is that one truth governs the other truth, that what our body systems and faculties like is based in the continuance of life which is the foundation that allows the possibility of a like and dislike way of life.

It is interesting to note that when you are ill you often fancy something that you don’t normally eat. Perhaps your body needs vitamin C to fight the illness and generates an overwhelming craving for oranges because they contain vitamin C. This tells us, among other things, that what we like and dislike is not always what is needed or what our body might crave. Or that what a situation calls for may be to listen to what your body and faculties are trying to tell you, rather than following the normal pattern of like and dislike. A good starting point to make your own observations and become more conscious about this would be to notice how often you use phrases like ‘I like this and that’, or ‘I like this but I don’t like that’. Try to watch yourself for a day and see how much you speak or think in terms of likes and

The big likes and dislikes start on a small scale

It’s in the small but countless examples in daily life of what people like and dislike that one finds the seeds of the greater likes and dislikes. It is important to stress that there is nothing wrong with preferring some things to other things, but to let this influence the whole of a life can have severe consequences. When like or dislike is constantly applied it becomes a habit that repeats over and over again until it becomes an unconscious influence on greater and greater parts of life. Then it’s no longer just a case of liking and disliking, but the fact is that this has become like a control system that recruits your opinions, decisions, actions and what you wish for. History bears witness to this. A well known example is the persecution of Jews in WW ll, where a strong wave of antipathy against Jews was brought to life and engulfed a large number of people, resulting in the Holocaust. Or during The French Revolution where the deep-rooted antipathy against the nobility was not satisfied until there were no more heads to decapitate. Also in our present time, we can question whether or not tragedies like 9/11, or the genocides in the former Yugoslavia with their massive media coverage, have nurtured a more extreme measure of like and dislike throughout the globe.

The waves of like and dislike arise when the majority of people no longer go deeper or are able to go deeper in themselves and consider what they think and feel about what any given situation calls for. Instead the reports and footage from the media becomes the primary promoter of like and dislike. It is at this point for every person to choose to analyse whether the likes and dislikes one has are based on a reasoning that takes the whole picture into account and not just the knowledge readily available.

How much energy is used in attaching importance to likes and dislikes?

Today most people have a greater access to information and knowledge than ever before with the internet as the latest major point of access. The endless range of choices we are introduced to give us a better possibility of choosing exactly what we like. Twenty years ago you could choose between salted and unsalted peanuts. Today you have all kinds, roasted, big or small peanuts, peanuts with honey, spices, barbecue, cheese, vinegar etc. and even with banana flavour. We can fill ourselves with a greater repertoire of what we like and we also have a much greater range of things to dislike. This causes us to expand our parameters of like and dislike so they take up more space in our lives and need more tending. The question is - at the expense of what? How much energy is used in attaching importance to likes and dislikes? Energy that could be used in finding out what is sufficient, suitable or strengthening for our lives. Is it in fact necessary to choose between 20 types of peanut flavours? Peanuts are perhaps not one of the most influential things in life but likes and dislikes are.

We only like that which is available to us

The following example gives another perspective of the outplay of like and dislike in living. You are in a shop looking for a jumper. The shop assistant shows you four different ones, a blue, a green, a brown and a white. You try them all on and decide that you like the white one best. But what if the one you would really like is light grey with a white pattern, but because it wasn’t shown to you, you don’t know of its existence and therefore don’t have the choice?

At some point we have all been asked, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ To help you to find a job you like you are shown a book with 600 existing job possibilities. But what if the job you would like is job number 601, the one that wasn’t in the book.

What these examples show are two important aspects of our own limitations.
The first is to do with how well we know ourselves, how much we have found out about what we really like and what degree of knowledge we have of the many small lives within us that all like different things. Perhaps our instinct needs the blue jumper, and therefore likes it best, whereas our career life prefers the white one. In this, one might be inspired to go deeper to find out where the like and dislike stem from. Is it an outer or inner influence at play? Does social upbringing play a part here, or surroundings, or perhaps age, astrological influence, national influence, the trends of today, fashion magazines etc?

The second aspect is to do with how well informed we are about life’s opportunities. This is not only about what you know but rather the knowledge you seek and are open to. In the example of the clothes shop the person lacks the knowledge needed to choose the jumper their life or instinct needs and therefore chooses the one he himself likes, in this case the career jumper. The same is the case in the job example where most people, and with good reason, haven’t gathered sufficient knowledge and experience to know what they want to be when they grow up.

The individual challenge is to remain the independent rational being one was designed to be

The crucial question to ask yourself must be; what is the purpose of like and dislike and how much influence do you want them to have in your life? At a time when like and dislike plays such a big part in world affairs the individual challenge is to remain the independent rational being one was meant to be, where there is a greater responsibility for the feelings and subsequent actions one lends one’s name to. A starting point could be to be clear in oneself which areas of life the self-induced likes and dislikes can be dominant in, and which areas one decides to be in charge of. It is of course individual for each person which areas he or she deems important or unimportant as with likes and dislikes.

When there are instant and overwhelming feelings of like and dislike it is often a symptom of an outside influence being identified as a personal feeling. In this case it is always good to check this feeling again and ask yourself if this is a feeling you really like.

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