People, me included, sometimes use the word “interesting” to describe someone favorably, more or less as a compliment. At some point I am no longer satisfied with the ambiguity of the word. I want to give shape to my definition of “interestingness”.

I want to encapsulate in words my particular taste of people—What kind of people I like and enjoy spending time with? What are the qualities of people I find inspiring?

Almost always, you can witness in them a life of not only trivialities but also transcendence. Something abstracted from life but not quite immediately about it. Something that is, despite lofty at times, shining through the crevice of day-to-day and bolstering one’s character.

They are idealists. They have values, beliefs, and convictions. Things that they hold on to, things that might be minute or stupid to others but they insist nonetheless. They have strong opinions, if not visions, for an ideal state of being. They think along the lines of “ought to be” and never cease to conceive alternative realities.

They aspire for greatness and excellence. They have an urge to do something really well and they put in the long efforts to make it. Quality is what they deeply care about, upholding the highest standards possible is their way of expressing it. They are the “bar-raisers”.

They exhibit multiple facets and most endearingly, facets in contradictions. They are strong and tender, cool and cute, sharp and steady. They are the marriage of opposites. Their rich and diverse characters weave a symphony that never fails to surprise you. They are one and many at once. They are multidimensional.

They are good at looking inwards. They know themselves because they keep learning about who they are. They take the nebulous construct that is “self” and constantly gaze at it, take it apart and analyze it. They are aware of their strengths and weaknesses as well as their roots and privileges.

They can put themselves together. You will hear them explaining to you how they arrive at where they are and, at least with some clues of, where they are heading. They have a narrative for their own story.

They might be sensitive, sentimental even. They are angry at the injustice, they are upset by the oppression, and they are compassionate for the weak. They feel. And they are also mindful of their feelings. They honor them and try their best to articulate them. They maintain utmost honesty with their thoughts and emotions.

They have a heart of a child. True, pure, and curious. They are able to marvel at the most mundane and experience wonder from the most ordinary. Everyday they encounter the world ready to be astounded, to see things in a new light. They always ask why, tirelessly inquiring how things work, how things came to be, and how things will develop.

They are passionate about something. A field, a cause, a craft, a niche hobby. They know passion is not lip service and they pour their hearts into it. And it will emerge—one will tell, from the eyes lit up, the mumbling throughout, the gestures so lively and smiles so radiant, the eagerness in the stuttering in explaining what they do, and most potently from the care and love coming through the work they’ve done.

They are critical, at others and at themselves all the more. They are driven by a “rebellious spirit”. They scrutinize their own conditions and beliefs more harshly than anyone else. They never take anything given gently, questioning and challenging what has always seemed to make sense to most people. They prefer to preserve a distance from and some tension with the crowd. They are contrarians.

Finally, they believe that specialization is for insects. Instead, these “truthful, independent, and holistic human beings” are what Lawrence Li calls “intellectual libertines” (adapted from Apple’s “Think Different”campaign):

Here’s to the crazy ones. The amateurs. The outsiders. The autodidacts. They are not fond of conformity, and they have no respect for elitism. You can mock them, snark about them, glorify or vilify them, or go at length to make sure that your warm-and-cozy professional life is not disrupted by them. About the only thing you can’t do is to pigeonhole them. Because they are intellectual libertines. They pierce through the membrane that divides our society into cubicles. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see truthful, independent, and holistic human beings. Because the ones who are crazy enough to fight against the rigidity of modern life, are the ones who prevail.