It is almost a year since I quit it all and went a-roving. Reflecting on my experiences, I had cause to wonder: “Why am I so happy?”
Well I recently realised that I don’t really have preferences any more. In the course of my travels, my life could be made easier if I didn’t have strong preferences for things. I could save money if I took the bus, I could sleep if I didn’t mind what I slept on, I could eat if I accepted what was offered to me. Of course, I could do all of these things while still holding a preference, but this would result in psychic distress if I hated everything all the time.
Further, I have spent time with people whose interests do not align with mine. Due to repeated exposure I came to realise that their interests lead to some very interesting ideas, ideas I ended up devoting significant time to exploring. It took me a fair while to overcome my immediate dislike of the topics but once I did i was able to assess the utility of this new subject area and found it both useful and interesting. I subsequently experienced one of the steepest learning curves I can remember.
These ideas of utility and analysis have largely replaced preferences as a way of determining courses of action. It seems preferences will lead to experiencing more of what you’ve already had, while utility normally leads to something new, such as my learning above. Additionally, preferences can be a source of discord between people, while a lack of preference helps to harmonise. For example, deciding with friends on what film to see or what meal to eat. If the point is to enjoy each other’s company, a lack of strong preference will help you come to a decision and enjoy the experience.
I don’t want to sound as if pleasure has gone out the window, having a preference can indeed enable you to choose between two options and get satisfaction from the results, however lack of preference leads to new or different experiences, which I find very pleasurable and when something comes along that particularly aligns to my preference I appreciate it all the more. A nice hard double bed in a private room – what bliss!
I feel this thinking extending to having “opinions” or a political stance. It seems increasingly awkward to me to think I might have an opinion on something without having analysed as much information about the subject as possible. Even with very woolly topics, such as social norms or politics, it is possible to have strategies for analysis and doing this rather than blurting out random emotional bollocks seems eminently more sensible. And analysis is by necessity more dispassionate. Again, I’m not dismissing the idea of passion, in fact I’m still really rather attached to it, but I sense that my thinking until this point had been disproportionately pulled towards the emotional, irrational end of the scale.
I’m almost embarrassed to be writing this, under the sidelong glances of my current peers, but once again I feel at a point in my life when I’ve finally come through a decades-long temper tantrum to humanbeinghood on the other side. Letting my preferences drift away from me has improved my life considerably.