With his "To be, or not to be..." Hamlet famously contemplated the ultimate crisis of existence. His conclusion was, put simply, there is a limit to the suffering one can bear before fast-tracking ones self-extinction. In death one can hope to return to a place where consciousness, and pain, end.
However, if continued existence is your choice of the moment then a whole flurry of options present themselves. Among those experiential adventures of mind and body, the interchanges we have with other sentient creatures ranks among the most rewarding.
When we spend time with those we like and love our lives attain value. To be sure there can be value interacting with those we dislike, detest and feel essentially neutral towards, however, at best those serve as calibration to appreciate those we care for. And so here I'll focus on what I see as the two primary modes of a positive relationship, loving and liking.
To love is easier to define. Loving, in the extreme, requires unconditional acceptance. At its heart, love puts the well-being of another before your own. As we are all imperfect beings, this protective emotion can provide the deepest security. It is also animalistic, discounting any rational evaluation, and alone can lead one down paths of ecstasy and despair. One might speculate love evolved as an instinctive feeling so as to defend and secure the future of offspring, family and extended tribe. Indeed, if the love is strong enough, no heinous action on the part of another will conquer it. Though our hearts may strain with the deepest pain, we will love the murderer, the backstabber, and the oath breaker until our dying day.
Liking someone, on the other hand, lacks the poetic gravitas of love. Still liking embodies the epitome of valuing a person for their merits. The very essence of liking can begin with superficial aspects: physical attraction, an overlap of shared interests or shared experiences. Yet over time, liking a person may grow ever stronger as we get to know someone's true self. Then, admiration and respect for the real person establishes itself. Liking is not automatic and is not necessarily permanent. One can lose the most treasured friendship should the others flaws become apparent or their behavior shifts awry.
Nevertheless, liking alone is a dangerous path to tread. Being evaluated stringently for ethicality, kindness, intelligence and skill can create amazing friendships, but without at least a touch of love, a love which invokes forgiveness, the structure of liking can shatter. So whether one pursues a romantic relationship, or a deeper connection with a family member or a colleague, the relationship is strengthened a blend of liking and loving.
At times, each of us may suffer like Hamlet, yearning for the physical or mental anguish to end. Ending ones existence uncalled for, especially when our true friends and loved ones will support us through thick and thin. Together, being liked and loved can amount to the greatest joy that existence has to offer. A loving friend sometimes can help us laugh at the world, or perhaps stir our heart to come alive within our mind, but always, as needed, a loving friend has a hug to share.