I’ve been reading a lot of Susan Sontag lately: her journals, her book Illness as Metaphor, and a slew of blog posts. One of these excerpted a journal entry in which Sontag not only analyzed why we humans like lists but that produced a list of her own likes and dislikes. Essentially, she was standing up for or against particular aspects of modern life. Most of us “jot down” lists, but this is probably the wrong phrase for this activity, because thinking about what one actually likes and dislikes is a more difficult thing to do than I first imagined, more involved than mere jotting. I know, because I tried.
At first I worried that making such a list bordered on the narcissistic. Who really cares what a person likes or dislikes? Do we make conscious decisions with any of this knowledge about other people? I doubt it, particularly in our day to day interactions.
But making such a list could be enlightening, for oneself. No one else needs to know. Sit down and think about the world and what you actually enjoy and what you find annoying, painful, sad.
However, if created lightly, without much thought, this list ends up sounding like the profile of some air-headed celebrity: “I like moonlit walks on the beach…, etc.” A far cry from the list Sontag created.
And to put any such a list out there is a bit risky…and again a bit self-involved.
I spent a good bit of time thinking about what I like–which writers and musicians, what art forms and what cities, what quirks of my own and what indulgences, what parts of everyday life and what special dreams. It was harder thinking of those things I didn’t like–the things I find annoying seemed petty when put on paper, seemed like too much kvetching, and was beginning to be forced.
So I put my list together and I worked hard at it and I decided it didn’t need posting, after all. It was good enough for me: “the examined life and all that.” Hah!