What Is Your Favorite Shared Experience?

Humans are a social species. We like to connect with other humans, to share ideas and experiences. A shared experience, like a movie or a concert, is more enjoyable than the same activity done in isolation.

As such, things we can do together have a special place in our psyches. We remember where we were when a impactful moment happens, one that everyone knows. The moon landing. 9/11. The space shuttle Challenger explosion.

Often these events can be traumatic, like the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. or JFK. But they can also be a cultural event, like the final episode of a TV show like M*A*S*H or Seinfeld. Or a movie like The Avengers, or a sporting event like the Super Bowl.

Personally, I don’t know much about Game of Thrones. I’ve never read any of the books or seen any of the TV shows. But I felt a sense of loss as the final few episodes aired recently.

The shows aren’t going anywhere. Now that they are all done, I can binge watch the whole thing any time I want. But the communal feeling that viewers had, knowing that a large percentage of society was paying attention, cannot be recaptured.

I wish I had been part of a viewing party. Or been able to talk to friends or co-workers about what shocking thing happened last night. Or been able to appreciate the late night talk show jokes, or read any of the seemingly endless blogs or magazine articles dissecting every minor detail of each of the last few episodes.

Those moments, of a shared community, makes us feel like we are part of more than just our tiny selves.

When have you felt a part of a cultural moment? What is your favorite shared experience?

Related questions: What is your favorite experience? Where do shared ideas exist? Why do we feel the need to belong? What do we have in common? What makes a community?

Is Understanding Possible?

As individuals, we all want other people to understand us. We want our co-workers to understand us, we want our friends to understand us, and we want our life partner to understand us. Understanding is important.

And yet, to some extent that’s not even possible. Fundamentally, we are each different beings, with our own thought processes that govern what we say and do.

Even people who know each other extremely well don’t know everything about each other. They still have the capacity to surprise each other with something they say or do. Ultimately, that makes sense, because no person has the same experiences, the same background, and the same genetics as you do.

But it goes even further than that. Really, you can’t even understand yourself. We might be too obsessed with our failures, and not enough with our successes. We don’t accurately see ourselves and our place in the world — we’re too close. It’s often easier to see someone else’s problems than it is to see our own.

On the other hand, some people do manage to accurately evaluate their own lives. Some couples are in relationships where they seem to finish each others’ sentences. There are some savvy business people who seem to know what their customers want before the customers themselves do. Siblings, particularly twins, who grow up together have a bond that they don’t share with anyone else.

But even in those cases, they are ultimately alone. We are born alone, and we die alone. Insight into someone else is not the same thing as true understanding.

Or is it? Is understanding possible?

Related questions: How important is intuition? Why do we care what strangers think of us? How does creative expression help us to know ourselves better? Who is the most important person in your life?