Great Likes

One of my favorite bands is a Swedish doom metal group called Katatonia. The vocals are droning, the rhythms are plodding, and the tone is like wading through a lake of icebergs. Granted, not everyone's cup of tea, but I like them. And not for any particular reason either.

Some people may like the singer. He's ok. Some people may like the lyrics, but they're rather bland. Some people may appreciate the musicianship; well, I've seen them live and they kinda suck.

To be honest, I can't really point out anything exceptional about the band at all. Even The Beatles had genre innovation going for them, but Katatonia has been playing off a tested and tried blueprint for years. They are, at best, mediocre. A few years ago, I wouldn't have wanted to admit that, but I've learned an important fact since then. Not everything we like is great.

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Have you ever been disappointed by a "great!" movie that someone recommended? Or a "great!" book that either had a predictable plot or inconsistent character development? It's a curious thing, what prompts us to define ourselves in terms of "great" likes. Because the word actually means, "considerably above the normal or average." Or in critics' terms, "great" is a four-star review (1 = poor, 2 = fair, 3 = good, 5 = excellent).

Given these definitions, many of us will have to concede that a large portion of our "likes" aren't great at all. Which is hard to do because humanity is given to posturing. No one wants to say, "Hi, I like terrible music." But odds are, if there's terrible music, there's someone who likes it. And this only means that there's more than one reason why we like something.

Take my four-year-old nephew, for example. He's a sweet little guy who can't seem to get more joy out of life than by sharing love with everyone around him. Sometimes this includes art and fancy portraits, usually Crayon on 24-pound paper.

So like most people with little children in their lives, I've received many such drawings. And I love them. Why? Well, it's not because I think they belong in The Louvre. It's because they are tokens of love. They're the first glimmers of affection in a person who doesn't even understand the concept of time yet. I don't like them because they're great; I like them because they're sentimental.

This doesn't make me any less of a person for liking things that aren't truly great. It just makes me human enough to appreciate other things, like love and humor and penguins falling down. So stop defending your likes as "great" and embrace the fact that you care about more than greatness. Like the innocent love of a child or the emotional solidarity of a cheap, Swedish knockoff.