…you and me are defined more by what we like and allow in than by what we hate and keep out.

What Do You Like & Why Do You Like It?

# 85 on my 99 Life Tips–A List is: Know why you like what you like. Learn to identify the feeling of liking something before you have the words to tell yourself you like it. That resonance, that connection, that is your home.

This one has been staring at me for a couple of days. I know what I mean by the tip I offered months ago when I created my list and posted it, but this one captures so much.

What you like defines you

Why do you like that? Why don’t you like this? Can your likes change—become weaker (?), or stronger? If they can change, did the thing formerly liked change? Or did the former “Like-er” change? Important stuff.

We all start in infancy as blank slates. Yes, I know, the argument of nature vs. nurture. Sure, sure. Still… I have no Grateful Dead genes that make me resonate to that frequency, nor any Russian genes I’m aware of that make the slow, deliberated, painstakingly detailed accounts of Dostoevsky so appealing and full of life and truth to me.

So, as for the accumulation of culture—which is really a fancy word for group or social liking of a thing—I’m on the nurture side of that debate. We like what we like because we get exposed to it by someone who convinces us that people like us like stuff like this. There’s a kind of peer pressure to like most of the things we choose. 

[That, and the size of the menu in proportion to the size of our appetites, and whether we find good entrements (palate cleansers) between samplings.] 

There are also degrees of liking a thing. You may wear the tee-shirt, but not kill bats on stage and drink their blood. (You can look up the old Ozzy Osbourne legend somewhere… Google it.)

So, Greg, you’re 300 words in and haven’t told me a damn thing about why I like some stuff and not other stuff.

True, dear reader, we are halfway down a proper electronic page and I cannot tell you what to like. I can, however, urge this—Don’t let anyone else tell you either!

We all got our first likes because someone pushed sweet mashed pears into our baby mouths before they spooned in disgusting pureed lima beans. Someone played Mozart, or Miles Davis or Metallica before Beethoven, Benny Goodman, or Bad Company.

We first gain likes and tastes from the people around us who expose us to them and usually because they like them too. (Maybe not with babyhood pears, but you catch my drift).

Here’s the rub

At some point, earlier or later, I don’t know, you will want to pay attention to whether or not you’d like Led Zeppelin at all if that delectable girl in the yellow overalls didn’t look so good wearing that logo emblazoned across her beautiful… t-shirt (what did you think I was going to type?)

My mom was a member of the Columbia Records club. This was back when dinosaurs roamed North America and people still had turntables on which to extract sound from round plastic platters. She got several albums a month, and she used to sit dreamily and play one album called Go To Heaven by a band of long-haired men, standing in a cloud on the cover, wearing cheesy looking, white, polyester-velveteen Lawrence Welk suits. 

Alabama Getaway and Don’t Ease Me In off that record sounded like countrified crapola to my 13-year-old ears. Hearing it made me gag and flee the premises, long before I got to hear Lost Sailor and Saint of Circumstance

I couldn’t stand it! Yuck! 13-year-olds ought not be judged too harshly for underdeveloped anything. Puberty makes for a cloudy filter.

But I did like her Fleetwood Mac, and Rickie Lee Jones, and Little Feat albums. I even liked Jimmy Buffett, and I wanted to like Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young because they had the coolest album cover. (You know the antique looking, sepia-toned album where they’re posed with a dog, and Crosby cradles a shotgun, and Neil is draped with bandoleers and a pistol, and a guitar is lying on the ground — Deja Vu—and it looks like Matthew Brady took the photograph right after the battle of Antietam or something). 

God, I loved the look of that album cover because I was crazy for all kinds of Civil War stuff. That picture was so cool! Who cared about hippies floating in white John Travolta suits in a cloud!?

But the music, Jeez! My misanthropic mom would get drunk, put on Teach Your Children and slur, “Hunnneee, jusss lishen to theesh wordzz. Thish iss evertheeen I wanna  shay to you kidzz.”

OMG!! Please No!Likes can change

I hated C,S,N,Y then. Association, ya know?

Though, I LOVE their music now. Different association… ya know?

The same reason I now love all things Grateful Dead. I had to grow into it. Then it grew into me.

So, sometimes early exposure doesn’t take root. Germination takes longer. Circumstances change, and then, bam! You hear something, or see something, or taste it, and it’s like tasting and seeing and hearing home. Like gathering up fragments of self that complete you. I know, weird.

But, they say there’s no accounting for taste. And truly there isn’t. If you will put on your Indiana Jones hat and do some personal archeology to dig up the reasons you’ve buried and kept your own personal treasures, you’ll learn a hella lot about yourself.

Fact is, your likes and loves will tell you more about yourself than your dislikes.

Shove over, I’ve invited God in

Probably shouldn’t drag God into a story already crowded with Jimmy Buffett, my drunk mom, Rickie Lee Jones, and bandoleers, but I see [Him] as defined (bad word, I don’t think [He] can be defined adequately, else the whole God idea shrinks, but it’s the best word we’ve got) by what [He] likes, immeasurably more than by what [He] dislikes. Just like you and me are defined more by what we like and allow in than by what we hate and keep out.

It’s the opposite of the way evangelical Christians think of God and themselves. These define themselves by what they oppose, what they’re against, what they resist and are afraid of. They never crack open Song of Songs, the most beautiful ode to physical, sexual love ever written (“kisses sweeter than wine”). It just sits there unread and unappreciated in their bibles. They conveniently forget Noah got drunk (after preserving humanity), David committed adultery—and murder (and was still called a man after God’s own heart), Jesus turned water into about a hundred gallons of wine at a wedding, and Peter denied Jesus (but Jesus restored him again over fish tacos on the beach).

They forget God loved everybody, EVERYBODY so much, [He] paid the ultimate price to win us back. I don’t imagine [He’s] trying to keep anyone out on technicalities like who they love. [He’d] prefer to outfit us all in white suits, invite us to stand in a cloud, and Go To Heaven. Or maybe my God is just bigger and more full of Grace and Mercy than yours. I dunno. Or maybe I’m wrong. But I’d rather be wrong believing in God as revealed Love. Maybe you’re unflawed, and you’re loved for your perfection. That doesn’t apply to me. But because God loves flawed me as much as [He] does, my only response is to trust [Him.] That is what faith is all about, after all. The heart’s response to a God showing and proving [His] Love.

If you’re curious about my brackets around masculine pronouns in reference to God, it’s because of my uncertainty of how to think of God and gender. I think of God as Father, the only real Father I’ve ever known. But God is called El Shaddai in the Hebrew scriptures, too, which means “the Breasted One”, or nurse. I love that image—of God being the source of life and growth and sustenance, of comfort, and warmth, and security, the way a nursing mother is to her infant child. You are welcome to your own images. I am convinced in my heart that my brackets aren’t offensive to [Him], or Him. End of disclaimer.

Back to the topic at hand—Here’s an unlimited credit card

Learn to identify what you like, on your own terms. Evaluate your preferences to see if you picked them up as the price of admission to some tribe or other, or thinking they’d be the key to some girl’s heart. 

What do you like, the real you? Imagine you have an unlimited credit card. Your preferences and tastes are the only ones you need consult. You start with an empty iPod, empty media shelves, and an unfurnished home—no pictures on the walls, nothing in the pantry, fridge, wine cellar, or liquor cabinet. What’s parked in the driveway? What do you get? What do you like? Not—what does your wife, husband, lover like? No. What do you like?

Go ahead, you have my full permission to fill your life with as many of those things you can. On the way, you’ll answer the question: Why do you like that? It may be this simple. You just do! It resonates. And it scratches the persistent itch, uncovers the empty spot, and fills up the void. Because it caresses your heart; and sings you, rocks you, swaddles you, envelops you, whispers you—home.

It may as simple as the idea enshrined by Mick Jagger—

“I know it’s only Rock n’ Roll, but I like it… yes I do!”

~ Rolling Stones: It’s Only Rock n’ Roll

Mick likes Rock n’ Roll, and that like defines Mick. What defines you? What do you like?

One day, I’ll invite you over to my own imaginary bare-floored, yoga-pillowed pad where we can have church listening for the whisper of God, blasting my collection of studio and live Dead performances on my megawatt stereo system, while we drink Napa Valley wine and Russel’’s Reserve and Grok out on all my Van Gogh and Monet and Mondrian paintings. Or maybe we’ll “ooh and aahhh” over my library of thousands of volumes of curated literature, housing everything from Brené Brown to Zane Grey.

You’ll like it. Or at least I will.

What did you ask? Oh, yeah, that Aerosmith you hear coming from the other room? Oh, that’s just my girlfriend rocking out on the sounds she likes. She calls mine alternately “Grandpa” or “Sleepy” music. If you prefer the Demon of Screamin’ to my sleepy tunes, you are welcome to plug in your headphones. To each his own. I can’t tell you what to like, I can only ask you to tell me, why do you like it?

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