2 Truths & A Why: The Case for ‘Like’

I recently watched this show called BoJack Horseman, which is about, er, a horse-man. I never expected an animated humanoid horse, living in an absurd universe, to give me so much to think about.. But here we are.

Amidst witty writing, biting satire and unapologetic animal puns, the show releases some precious truth bombs related to life, death, mental health, and more. One such gem is this dialogue-

..one day you’re going to look around and you’re going to realize that everybody loves you… but nobody likes you. And that is the loneliest feeling in the world.

Don’t lose heart.. This wasn’t meant to be a prophecy about how your life would turn out, or mine. It’s best to understand this statement in the context of that episode and everything going on with BoJack himself. We won’t get into that, but even without the underlying context, these words deserve close examination. How can being loved (vs. liked) be a bad deal!?

Love is the glorious feeling that many a poet has tried their hand at expressing (..with Andrej Sládkovič penning 2,910 lines in one such attempt). Like is like a watered-down version of it, something that can be expressed with a double-tap on your phone screen while you’re browsing Instagram. We usually peg love at a higher level than like, and believe that the latter grows into the former.. But here’s the thing — We might be putting love on a pedestal and understating the value of like.

Truth #1: Love is blind.

Love is a temporary insanity, driven by hormones (Don’t come at me.. This is what scientists say). Love refers to a feeling of strong attraction and emotional attachment. It activates and deactivates certain parts of our brain to enhance our dopamine rush and suspend our judgement, in the interest of evolutionary processes like survival and reproduction.

Agree to disagree?

Okay, I admit that this no-frills description of love is grossly simplified. There are many forms of love, with varying degrees of intimacy, intensity and complexity. There is a lot more to this concept, which even science might fail to explain (leave alone a paragraph in my Medium post). However, the proverb ‘Love is blind’ holds water in most cases. These three words, popularized by Shakespeare, are a commentary on how people in love do not see the faults in their beloved. Unconditional love is the purest kind of love and it is designed to overlook (or disregard) flaws in the object of our affection.

Truth #2: Humans are flawed.

“Flaws do not make you evil, but human, and if you seek the perfect embodiment of virtue, humans will disappoint you.” — Carmine Savastano

If you think you have no flaws, then I’ll point one out for you.. You’re delusional. To be flawed is natural; to err is human.

Don’t sue him

Despite our obsession with perfection, the truth is that we are deeply flawed. When I say deeply, I mean, it’s down to our genes. We exist because of random errors in DNA replication, which is an important process to let us and our living cohabitants thrive. Mutations are not always good (and we’re bearing the brunt of that during the ongoing pandemic), but they’re also essential for evolutionary innovation. Not just biologically, but also characteristically, humans have flaws, flaws that can’t be airbrushed using beauty filters. We are a unique make-up of our rightness and our fallibility, of good stuff and bad stuff, all shaped by our experiences and conditioning. Perfection is a myth.

Why should we like 'like’?

What I’m trying to get at is, on some level, we all want to be liked. If someone likes us, it means that they understand us. Their fondness of us doesn’t fade when our flaws become visible (which they inevitably will, with time). Rather, they accept us for who we are, maybe even relate to our vulnerability. They see us.

I don’t want someone to love me blindly, out of attachment, illusion, or worse, obligation. I want them to see me in my imperfect glory, and I’d be happy if they still like me enough to stick around. Being sustainably liked with rational insight is better than being temporarily loved with dopey blindness.

Like and love don’t exist on a linear scale, with one leading to another. They live in different planes of their own. Love sounds more charming, yes, but that charm depreciates over time. It doesn’t help that the word gets thrown around so casually (“I love Star Wars”). Like seems milder, but there’s a certain reliability and sincerity about it (“I like corn flakes in warm milk”). Love is a feeling, like is a choice — and that makes all the difference.

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I like poetry, philosophy and fridge magnets.

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Aishwarya Verma

Aishwarya Verma

I like poetry, philosophy and fridge magnets.

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