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Why do we like, what we like?

Updated on January 9, 2017
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Great men of the past and present who found interest in the esoteric questions the day were off the mark. He is trying to fill that gap

What pleases us, also, what displeases us?

I think it is rather easy to say: we like something that pleases us and, we dislike anything that displeases us. But I found it rather difficult to guess: what would have pleased us and what wouldn’t.

I think we are not very clear in our understanding of this particular part of our character, notwithstanding the progress, the human race has achieved so far. Concede, we have developed the art, rather the science of persuasion, into a full-fledged branch of study. We are also learning more about importance of presentation, the vital component of any transaction that can make its contents appealing or otherwise. I think in all such instances, we have been giving undue importance to the objects of transaction, rather than focusing on human nature, while collecting answers to our questions. And we are more or less happy with our findings; variations in our nature are routinely attributed to, the objects possessing its unique qualities, except in cases where the same quality can appear in many objects, like color or smell. Should it be so?

So, let me ask the question again, for an answer to this will greatly help me in understanding our motivations. Let us examine one such instance, looking into a simple question, why is fair or light complexion, the most sought after?

In fact, all my efforts to find an answer made it more and more clear to me that, we humans have no special affinity to any shade. Look at our possessions, those living or non living objects that are close to us, and see that all shades and all colors are found among them, in more or less equal frequency. None of our possessions, our clothes, wares, houses etc, is outside this unwritten rule, they come in all possible colors. It can even be said that, it is the different shades of black that more often than not, turns out to be the choice. Another look at our wares, pets, vehicles or dresses shall be enough to support this.

Why is it that when it comes to humans, that too only in the matters of complexion, we have a leaning towards the lighter one, the fair skin? More than that, why are we steering away from the dark skin?

All of us want to be fair complexioned. And this human desire has been accepted more or less as a gospel truth. The plethora of religious texts, scriptures and writings, repeatedly reminding us of the need to be ‘fair’ towards the dark skinned, is only a silent admission of our ‘guilt’. As though it is natural to feel antipathy or aversion towards the dark skin!

Aren't we Partial to Fair?

Can this be true? Is it possible to have such a natural attraction towards fair or light tone and appearance, that too, only on one issue, the color of our skin?

The origin and history of word ‘fair’ indicates that the meaning assumed by that word, in old writings was mainly for denoting and conveying ideas of attractiveness and intent, rather than any physical attributes. The word thus came to be associated with things that are desirable the most, one can easily gather. Therefore it is easy to propose that ‘fair complexion’ happened to become something worth longing for, as that complexion was associated with everything good. Yes, the skin associated with ‘fair’ became more attractive, as that was the skin of successful people, the luckier ones who lived a luxurious lifestyle, who did lead a fuller life and were visibly happier.

Why is it So?

That brings us to the most significant question in this regard, what makes, people from the land associated with the ‘fair’ skin so worthy of admiration, that too, of such proportions that the others are dying to copy even their appearance?

In fact more than its current nature or even its magnificent looks, what makes something worthy is the belief, the general idea about how it came into being, as Dr. Paul Bloom, Professor, Yale University, writes in his book, How Pleasure Works. During experiments, where children were told about things being created either on purpose, with someone working very hard to do them, or by accident, it could be observed that, the very same object became more appealing and valuable even to a three-year-old, when it was told that it was created on purpose, than when the creation was mentioned as accidental. History of good tidings associated with the source of pleasure can add to the sensations emerged or the satisfaction derived, towards augmenting the happy feelings. The vice versa also is true, a negative image can greatly alter the outcome, by leading even the well intended, good entities to unhappiness.

In short, the more attracted we are, by the ambience around an entity, the more determined we are, to take possession of that entity.

That will make us reach this conclusion. History of ‘fair’ skinned’ land, especially since industrial revolution, adds handsomely to whatever pleasure we derive out of things from that land. And fair complexion is one such ‘thing’. Remember, 'tall, dark and handsome', a popular refrain of the Shakespeare's days has also disappeared from our literature. (This particular part played by industrial revolution is the single most important reason for the present state of nations, mainly the differences in quality of life)

What then, decides the Choice?

It is clear then, we like what we like, or, we dislike what we dislike, is mainly due to the abstract value those things carry along, a value that is largely contributed by its historical background. This ‘history’, is the one we put to effective use in supporting our decision, whether it is to like or to dislike.

That is the reason why we are always wary of our actions, especially of pleasing someone, for, one can never be sure of the expected results taking place. Whereas when it comes to hurting someone, we rarely face the need to worry, the results take place as expected.

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