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Liking and loving: what’s the difference?

A couple of weeks ago, I replaced my three-year-old smartphone with a new one. Needless to say, I was impressed with how far the technology had advanced in three years. Even when I didn’t have anybody to call or text or e-mail, I wanted to keep holding my new smartphone and experiencing the marvelous clarity of its screen, the silky action of its track pad, the shocking speed of its responses, the delightful elegance of its graphics.

I was in love with my new device. I’d been similarly in love with my old device, of course; but over the years I’d developed trust issues, compatibility issues and even some doubts about its sanity, until I’d finally had to admit to myself that our relationship was over. Do I need to point out that our relationship was entirely one-sided? Let me point it out anyway. Let me further point out that hi-tech companies create products that correspond to our ideal of a relationship, in which the beloved object asks for nothing and gives everything, and doesn’t make terrible scenes when it’s replaced by another object.

To speak more generally, the ultimate goal of technology is to replace a natural world that’s indifferent to our wishes with a world so responsive to our wishes as a mere extension of ourselves. Let me suggest, finally, that the world of techno-consumerism is troubled by real love, and that it has no choice but to commercialize love in turn. You can all supply your own favorite examples of the commercialization of love. Mine include the wedding industry, TV ads that feature automobiles as Christmas presents, and comparing the diamond jewelry to everlasting devotion. The message, in each case, is that if you love somebody you should buy stuff.

A related phenomenon is the transformation of the verb ‘to like’ from a state of mind to an action that you perform in social networks. And liking, in general, is a commercial substitute for loving. The striking thing about all consumer products is that they’re designed to be immensely likable. This is, in fact, the definition of a consumer product, in contrast to the product that is simply itself, like jet engines, laboratory equipment, serious art and literature. But if you imagine a person who only cares about being liked, you see a person without integrity, without a center. If you dedicate your existence to being likable, it suggests that you’ve despaired of being loved for who you really are.

There is no such thing as a person whose real self you like every particle of. This is why a world of liking is ultimately a lie. But there is such a thing as a person whose real self you love every particle of. And this is why love is a threat to the techno-con-sumerist order: it exposes the lie. When you love a specific person, you identify your-self with his or her struggles and joys as if they were your own. The big risk here, of course, is rejection. We can all handle being disliked now and then, but to expose your whole self and to have it rejected can be catastrophically painful. The prospect of rejection makes us to avoid love and stay safely in the world of liking. And yet pain hurts but it doesn’t kill.

When I was in college, and for many years after, I liked the natural world. Didn’t love it, but definitely liked it. But then a funny thing happened to me. It’s a long story, but basically I fell in love with birds. I think that my love of birds became a portal to an important, less self-centered part of myself that I’d never even known existed. Instead of continuing to drift forward through my life as a global citizen, I was forced to confront my true inner self that I had to either accept or reject. Because the fundamental fact about all of us is that we’re only alive for a while. And you can either run from this fact or, by way of love, by way of sacrificing yourself for the sake of someone else, you can embrace it.

ВОПРОС 1: The author describes how much he was fond of his new …
1) e-mail.
2) track pad.
3) smartphone.
4) screen.

ВОПРОС 2: Which of the following statements is TRUE, according to the text?
1) The relationship always breaks because of the lack of trust.
2) Our attitude to electronic gadgets today is similar to a relationship.
3) One of the most important qualities in any relationship is compatibility.
4) You can’t have a good relationship with a person if you doubt his sanity.

ВОПРОС 3: The wrong idea of consumerism is that if you love someone …
1) you should buy things for him.
2) you should care for him.
3) he should love you in turn.
4) you should be troubled by it.

ВОПРОС 4: Which of the following qualities, according to the author, all the consumer products must have?
1) They have to be very likeable.
2) They must be quite reliable.
3) They should be functional.
4) They need to be inexpensive.

ВОПРОС 5: The author states that exposing your love to another person and being rejected can be very …
1) cheerful.
2) grateful.
3) painful.
4) playful.

ВОПРОС 6: As the author puts it, — pain hurts, but it doesn’t …
1) heal.
2) kill.
3) kneel.
4) seal.

ВОПРОС 7: Just as the author has become very interested in birds, he became less …
1) self-centered.
2) self-oriented.
3) self-conscious.
4) self-sufficient.

ВОПРОС 1: – 3
ВОПРОС 2: – 2
ВОПРОС 3: – 1
ВОПРОС 4: – 1
ВОПРОС 5: – 3
ВОПРОС 6: – 2
ВОПРОС 7: – 1