Most people, I think, start out by being fairly open-minded to most experiences. For a child, each new room and each new day are potential adventures waiting to be explored. During the first few years of our lives, we are totally “in the moment,” completely immersed in the waters of the here and now.
As we get older, though, we begin the laborious task of separating, ranking and categorizing our likes and dislikes. Getting beyond the basic requirements of sustaining life, we begin more and more to seek out the little joys and luxuries in life that bring us a sense of comfort and satisfaction. We tend to avoid those things that detract from the enjoyment of a day well spent. For my part, for instance, this means placing meat loaf and string quartets on the “pure pleasure” side of the ledger, and relegating Regis Philbin and bubblegum flavoured ice cream to the “to be avoided” side.
For me, the most intense period of developing these appreciative and critical insights was during my late teen years and early adulthood. (I imagine it happens at different times for different people.) It seems, looking back, that every week during this stage of my life was a fertile ground for discovering new interests and passions that would follow me through the decades to come. Single malt scotch, Kurt Weill, Tabasco sauce, gothic literature, antique maps and mashed potatoes all took up permanent residency in my life.
This process of finding out what we like and don’t like, and trying to understand why, is an important part of understanding who we are. All these little preferences and idiosyncrasies are part and parcel of our individual personalities. So, obviously, this process of discovery is a good thing. It can have its drawbacks, though. There is a possibility that we can take this cultivation of preferences a bit too far. At what point does knowing what you like become ossified into prejudgment and closed-mindedness to new experiences?
Luckily, I don’t have to worry about being too discriminating anymore. In a sort of middle age induced psychosis, it seems I’m becoming nearly unable to dislike anything anymore. The other day, for instance, I found myself singing along to some power ballad by REO Speedwagon on a soft rock radio station, and even getting choked up by the cloying sentimentality of the song. In the past couple of years, I’ve discovered previously unsuspected likings for disco music, Coronation Street, ice cold Carling Black Label, microwave popcorn, and the original cast recording of Godspell. Can Whitney Houston and chicken McNuggets be far behind? Suddenly, I have no taste or judgement at all, and the world is once again my oyster. What a wonderful turn of events.