The value of shared experiences

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 9, 2024, 7:28 PM | comments: 0

Yesterday's eclipse was interesting because, at the very least, most everyone in the United States was able to see some portion of it, weather permitting. A subset, including a non-trivial number of people who traveled, got to see it in its totality. Something that cosmic certainly affects people in deep and meaningful ways, and maybe for a few minutes at least, the differences that make us weary of each other seem less important.

Those kinds of moments are not very common. Unfortunately, many of the biggest shared experiences are of the most negative kind. The attacks of 9/11 seem like one of those things, or maybe when the Space Shuttle exploded on launch. Regardless, they're moments that we can recall, and trade stories about what we were doing at the time. I've seen anthropologists talk about how shared experiences are an important way for people to connect and be more integrated with their communities, and also why that doesn't scale very well when the population gets beyond a certain size.

Sometimes, it's the differences in people that bond them together. We've seen this in recent years as marginalized communities, including women in general, have come together to demand fair treatment. Perhaps the weirdest thing to me is the people who feel culturally threatened, but are not at any actual risk, who come together with the common goal of leaning into that irrational fear. That's an entire (loud) movement now.

But there are also small groups of people who do things together that, by extension of that experience, see the greater potential for what they can do with their fellow humans. Artists, who probably already have a more idealized and romantic way of seeing the world, are a great example of this. Find a group of people who made a movie, or live theater, or music, and see how they feel during that process. Can you imagine if the world were led by artists?

Ultimately, it's a universal truth that everyone has their shit to deal with. At my most naive, I would hope that this alone would instill empathy in people in a way that made the world less divisive. As usual, I point out that there is not moral equivalence among all factions. While I can be empathetic toward people who fear some communities of people only because they're not like them, I cannot condone their desire to further marginalize of oppress those communities.

I don't know what kind of large scale shared experience would help, but there aren't many scenarios that I can think of that aren't terrible. I hate that we as a species haven't already evolved beyond this.


No comments yet.

Post your comment: