I can’t tell if this is an interesting etymological revelation, or if it’s something that everyone else has always already known, and I’ve been slow to notice. At any rate, it’s taken me fifty years to think about the fact that the word “like” has two very different meanings —
- (adjective) To be similar, having the same characteristics and qualities
- (verb) to admire, appreciate, or enjoy.
For example: 1. I am like a tiger when angry; and 2. I like tigers.
As I started thinking about it, I realized that one use of the word often follows the other. When we recognize our similarity to things, or people, or the qualities they embody (i.e. we see how we are like them), we are probably more likely to like (i.e. appreciate) them. Familiarity and relatedness tend to foster kindly, tolerant, generous feelings.
And I think it works in both directions. As we open up and appreciate one another, we are more inclined to discover our innate commonality. The more we practice actively liking people and things, the more we begin to see ourselves in them, the more we attune to our deep connection with each other and everything.
Indeed, this may be easier said than done.
Since these thoughts began rattling around in my head, I’ve become aware of how often I think or say “I don’t like it/him/her/them.” ALL THE TIME. I go around not-liking a lot of the world, a lot of my life. Even stuff that I’m actually engaged in — “I’ll do it, but I won’t like it.”
I don’t mean to be glib about this. For sure, there’s plenty not to like out there, some situations and things and people can be really difficult to like. Dr. King wisely said, “We should be glad that Jesus never instructed us to like our enemies, but rather to love them.” It’s true. Sometimes it’s possible to muster up a spiritual idealism that enables us to LOVE in an abstract sense even that which we feel we could never, ever LIKE. We can love everybody, theoretically, at the same time that we dislike them, actually.
I’m wondering, though, what might be available if we worked on LIKING a little more.
While a noble transcendent LOVE can indeed enable us to rise above the jerks and their shitty behavior, positioning us to bestow our grace magnanimously from on high, even upon those who might not deserve it… isn’t this, really, in the end, just another way that we separate ourselves from others?
Trying to LIKE them, on the other hand… there’s no escaping each other in that. It seems to me, and it’s strange to consider, how LOVE can keep a comfortable distance, even a division. While LIKE — well, now, that’s always something of a mirror. It includes both senses of the word.
And maybe that’s the key to a practice of liking what’s hard to like. It doesn’t have to mean we hang out with it, or passively suffer with it, or keep our mouths shut in the face of it — it can simply mean that we try to look for ourselves in it. This thing/person/situation I don’t like: WHY? There’s almost certainly something of myself I’m seeing in there, something that I can relate to, something in which I can recognize my own needs or insecurities or shadows. This relatedness — I am like that, you are like me — nurtures compassion for each other, and ultimately for ourselves. Which brings us a lot closer to actual enjoyment of and appreciation for each other, and again ultimately for ourselves — I like you.
That’s the way, uh-huh uh-huh, I like it.
© 2019 Drew Groves