• Nick Metler

Why are Authentic Shared Experiences Important for a Meaningful Life?

Updated: Sep 8


LET'S GO TO THE MOVIES!

I love going to the movies. There is almost nothing I love more in this world. I think the introvert in me enjoys closing off the world around me and being attentive to one solitary experience for a finite piece of time. There are not many experiences like that where we can shut off the world around us for a moment. However, the other facet of this experience is critical as well. Experiencing film alone is one thing; there is something precious about being the only person in a dark theater lit only by the widescreen. The real magic comes when the electricity of a crowd takes over when a moment captivates the audience bringing them joyous approval, tearful emotion, or absolute disgust from a place of righteous indignation.


I've written in the past about monoculture and the desire to attack something without nuance or critical thinking (and I didn't particularly enjoy the movie in question either). However, it was instructive in showing our need to find collective understanding for and with one another. There are two types of moviegoing experiences that I cherish the most: being the stranger in the crowd and going with my friends. I appreciate them for different reasons, but they both serve the same goal of finding meaning together in something outside ourselves.


THE STRANGER IN THE CROWD

Being in a room full of people and not knowing anyone there is a somewhat confounding experience. This outcome depends on the quality of the experience (in this case, a movie) and its emotional impact. The odds are against everyone having the same observations or understanding of the film. However, sometimes when a moment clicks into place, the room electrifies. Maybe it's a jolt of laughter, a rush of tears, or a punch in the gut; regardless, all of these elicit a level of emotion that transcends a situation found when we are alone.


Knowing that people who were utterly unaware of one another just moments before can reach a similar emotional point through a shared experience helps us to recognize that we are not the center of the universe. It makes life more palpable in a collective sense and creates a greater understanding of the stories we tell and participate in each day.


YOU WANNA SEE A MOVIE?

Possibly even more fun, for obvious reasons, is going to the movies with a friend or a group of friends. In this scenario, the intimacy of conversation, the difference of opinion, and the emotional responses tend to intensify.


Some of my favorite movie experiences are movies that I hated, but I saw them with the people I love. In this case, it's almost better if the film is a real dud. There's a fellowship that builds when experiencing something truly reprehensible. The time spent, the journey through life, and the shared connection create empathy for the future.


WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

Honestly, you could swap going to the movies with just about any activity that you want, and it would probably fit just fine. But, I believe this anecdotal evidence shows us something about how we interact at work. It isn't always the work that makes life fulfilling, but the people we do it with will undoubtedly impact our lives.


During this period of widespread job change, "The Great Resignation," searching for a community at work is difficult. Your people may be leaving, but new people may be coming in with no knowledge of previous history or any significant picture of the future. Also, sometimes you have to be the stranger in the crowd to ask people to come alongside you. A willingness to experience working together, find a place in the group, and find meaning through relational action will bring a greater sense of purpose and a more fulfilling life.

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