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‘I Like’

April 1, 2014

The ultimate word is I Like. It lies beneath philosophy, and is twined about the heart of life. When philosophy has maundered ponderously for a month, telling the individual what he must do, the individual says, in an instant, “I Like,” and does something else, and philosophy goes glimmering. It is I Like that makes the drunkard drink and the martyr wear a hair shirt; that makes one man a reveller and another man an anchorite; that makes one man pursue fame, another gold, another love, and another God. Philosophy is very often a man’s way of explaining his own I LIKE.

‘Philosophy goes glimmering’ wrote Jack London, upon the whim of our likes.

How easily we forget the philosophical constructions we suppose we live our lives by. How easily. That is we advocate common advice and principled living. Principles and common advice rouse us and concentrate the memory. It keeps it from losing grip.

Imagine you are grasping onto a rope. This rope represents your ideals. Now, what makes you let go of that rope? I Like coupled with forgetfulness.

Why? Because forgetfulness is something that happens whether we like it or not. There are ways to improve memory retention, but we still forget. And, when we forget, we use willpower to keep things at the forefront of our minds. One can tell themselves over and over to do something – to keep it at the forefront of their mind. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Why? Because, as Roy Baumeister’s studies show, willpower is a finite resource. It can be depleted for bursts of time.

One of the key ways willpower gets depleted is by making choices. There is a reason car salesman bombard customers with questions about trivial details first. When the customer enters, they are quite capable of discerning between similar options. They are also more patient. But, as they make more and more decisions, they become irritable. “Can we cut to the chase?” “Yeah, okay.” People begin making rash decisions… perhaps on extras they didn’t intend to buy.

Similarly, we cannot reinvent the wheel; we cannot discover brilliance easily… Perhaps we shall do so – we do have realisations – but to reinvent continuously? Every day? To consistently ‘discover’ brilliance and facilitate being extraordinary?

Madness. As my mathematics teacher is fond of saying, it took over 100 years to perfect the introductory techniques of calculus. Watch students learn those techniques in a few hours. Discovery – real innovation – is a torturously lengthy process.

That’s why the past is so, so useful to look for guidance in. It is where the discoveries took place. It is also why I say “there are simple, fundamental ideas and principles that form the basis of much of what is extraordinary.”

It is this, not I Like, that should form the philosophy we live by. Do not let your ideals drift away upon the whim of I Like.

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