I was raised under the dictum – ‘You can’t just do what you like’. Such was the domination of kids by adults that in my infancy I didn’t pay any attention to the little voice inside that said, “Why not?”. That was the kind of question that meant trouble if I dared give it an airing. My childhood experience of the world was mostly about what I did not like and that didn’t get an airing either.
Looking back with all the towering insight and hindsight of 70 years on this planet, I can see that secretly, ‘What you like’, dominated and dominates every life, including the frustrated rage of adults who take it out on kids.
The universe, however, was on my side and I was part of the greatest youth revolution in the history of the world, in which ‘what you like’ was the supreme driving force.
My parents world was dominated by drudgery, duty and obedience, the dying whip lash of the Victorian period in which having fun was probably considered even worse than masturbation, which, for late comers (ahem) to the party, is fun and does not make you deaf.
The only time I saw adults, and teachers in particular, giving vent to their feelings was in rage and punishing kids: every beating dished out by people whose dreams had been beaten out of them.
In April 1971 Philip Larkin wrote, ‘This be the verse’,
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.
This masterpiece by Larkin should have been the funeral dirge of the Victorian period, sadly festering pustules of it linger on.
That’s what happens when finding and doing ‘what you like’ is frustrated, punished and broken, because ‘what you like’ is the discovery of life, love and the pursuit of your own hopes and dreams and the expression of your own unique, one of a kind, humanity. ‘What you like’ is the most important thing we can ever do. It is the thing that will inspire us most and to which we will devote our time, will and energy most keenly and devotedly, and in the process discover ourselves.
Sadly the fight isn’t nearly over, the world is mostly run by dismal, joyless, bastards, yet the need for seeking, learning and doing what we like is, thankfully, as alive and vital as ever. The energy the Victorians expended in keeping it down, is the same energy, will and determination we use to lift ourselves up, but with hope and joy and not the empty punitive rage of repression and broken dreams.
‘What you like’ is a part of our essential make-up, pay attention to it and you might just find the cure for that depression (a sure sign of an oppressed and repressed life) that’s been beating you down all these years.
Happiness is not a brand it is a state of being in which being true to yourself is key.
Keith Lindsay-Cameron aka KOG. 05 May 2021.