“Shared” Experience

first-date-at-cafe“That which we call shared experience is never truly shared. We see the world through a lens constructed from individual prior knowledge, and therefore it colors even those times when we are not alone.” ~Theodicus

I love that saying about there being three sides to every story: my side, your side, and the truth. But that statement is inherently incorrect at its core. The truth is always shaded by personal experience, and your truth is not mine, but does that make yours any less valid than mine?

A boy and his father went fishing at the lake one summer day. They caught three fish and drove back home in silence. To the father it was a companionable silence born from a bonding experience between the two. But to the boy the silence was fraught with accusation because he knew his father’s expectations, and he felt like he had messed up several times that day. They had gone through a “shared” experience, but each of them took something different away from it.

That can be both a blessing and a curse, though, having an experience that cannot ever truly be shared. It’s a blessing because even if one of you takes it as a negative, you can see the positives in it. It’s a curse because no matter how special the experience might be to you it could be unsatisfactory to the other person involved.

Jessica and Tommy went out on a date tonight. They had dinner at a nice Italian place, saw the latest romantic comedy, and he walked her to her apartment. They kissed goodnight and he started walking home, analyzing the date as he went. It ended with a kiss, so he figured the night went well. Jessica closes the door and hopes he doesn’t call because to her the date was a disaster. The goodnight kiss, to her, was a kiss goodbye. They had the same experience, and did the exact same things, but they reached entirely different conclusions based on that “shared” evidence.

Truth is variable. The truth in every situation is a fluid construct, shifting to accommodate individual thoughts and previous experiences. But can we still enjoy these shared experiences? Definitely. We just need to be honest with each other instead of trying to spare feelings, or assuming that the other person feels the same about the experience that we do. It all starts with communication, just like everything else, with a real sharing of ideas and feelings. That’s what can transform those “shared” experiences into actual mile markers on our road to understanding each other.

Sam

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