580: Second Favorite

A Thousand Things to Talk About
A Thousand Things to Talk About
580: Second Favorite

What’s your second-favorite book, movie, or TV show?

Full episode script

The word “favorite” is an intriguing one, because it means “preferred before all others of the same kind.” Which, linguistically, means that selecting a second favorite anything is almost cross purposes. If you take the meaning of “favorite” to mean “preferred” or “best,” then it makes a little bit more sense.


But – picking a second favorite seems almost more difficult than picking a favorite, because it requires a full ranking of your preferences around something (be it media, or just about anything else). But this ranking implies quite a few things about how you approach the world.


As Gretchen Ruin wrote in her blog, quote:

I dislike being asked to identify my “favorite.” Some people seem to love this exercise. Favorite book, favorite movie, favorite restaurant, favorite memory.

I, however, find this exercise distressing. First of all–how can I possibly pick something like a “favorite” book? It’s impossible! And to me, picking a “favorite” somehow makes all the other options seem less interesting. I don’t even like picking something like a favorite part of the day. Sometimes, like Maria, I’ll pick a few of my favorite things–but I can rarely pick just one favorite.


And perhaps instead of picking a few favorite anything, not picking favorites at all could be a legitimate strategy too.


Written by journalist Emina Bajra reflecting on her interview with one of the world’s oldest people, Jiroemon Kimura, quote:

It was impossible to get Kimura to name a favorite anything.

Favorite food? “Everything.” he smiled.

Favorite memory? “Many things, whatever came my way.”

What do you love about Kyotango? “Nothing in particular!”

What are you most thankful for? “I would say everything.”

Kimura lived in a world free of likes and dislikes.  Yet rather than being an empty person devoid of interests, Kimura exuded a rare fullness, brimming with the humanity and passion that comes from being open to all things.

In Zen philosophy, which underlies Japanese culture, the Faith-Mind Sutra teaches that “the Great Way is not difficult; it only avoids picking and choosing.  But make even the slightest distinction, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.”

By not choosing favorites, Kimura seemed to have mastered the art of ‘taking his life as it comes.’

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.