Favorites (July 28)


“I know what I like” (Henry James).

OUR “FAVORITES” ARE THE THINGS, THE OCCASIONS, AND THE PEOPLE WHOM WE REGARD WITH SPECIAL FAVOR. Like Henry James, most of us know what we like, and our favorites are the things we like especially well. To have favorites is simply to have, as Henry David Thoreau put it, “a sincere love for some things.”

The amazing variety that characterizes the human race is due, in part, to the fact that we each have a unique set of favorites. “There are,” as Horace wrote, “as many preferences as there are men.” Our likes and dislikes may overlap with those of our closest friends to some extent, but no two of us have exactly the same set of favorites. And that’s good. It would be a much less interesting world if we all regarded everything in life with exactly the same degree of favor.

It seems to me that we should take the time to consciously appreciate our favorite things more often. If there is something that delights me in a special way, I ought to relish that thing and savor its enjoyment intentionally. And if there is something that uniquely pleases you, you ought to drink its enjoyment down to the last drop. It does us a down-home kind of good to have familiar, favorite things — and it does us even more good to appreciate them mindfully.

Nowadays, we hear a lot about “equality,” and that may cause us to feel a little uncomfortable with the concept of favoritism. But having favorites is not unjust, and it’s no infringement on equality. It’s naive to think that we can like everybody and everything without showing any partiality at all. In fact, if we tried to do that, it would take much of the value out of bestowing favor on anything. As MoliĆ©re wrote, “Esteem must be founded on some sort of preference. Bestow it on everybody and it ceases to have any meaning at all.”

What would be wrong, of course, would be to limit ourselves to our favorites. Having favorites is fine, but we need to deal rightly with things (and especially people) that we don’t like as well. And not only that, we need to be willing to experiment. Who knows? There may be some really good things out there that could become favorites if we ever got outside of our preferences and gave them a chance.

“Let us prefer, let us not exclude” (Joseph Roux).

Gary Henry – WordPoints.com

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