Mutual experience* presents a paradox.
*Mutual experience, simply put for purposes of this post, is doing the same thing as someone else. It could be simultaneous (e.g. riding a roller coaster with a friend) or temporally divided (e.g. reading a novel after a friend has read it).
There is little in life that is a more consistent source of pleasure than mutual beneficial experience. It explains the joy in reading old yearbook entries (where friends write of inside jokes) and the pleasure of jogging our memories with a friend or lover over a pleasant past mutual experience.** The pleasure of mutual experience is behind the nauseating (to me, but pleasing to many others) back-and-forth over travel experiences.
**It may be more than momentary. One study has shown that couples’ reminiscences of events of shared laughter improve overall satisfaction with their relations.
At the end of “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency,” the best episode of the most recent season of Mad Men, Don Draper tries to comfort his daughter, who is scared of the dark. She is scared of the dark because she thinks that her new baby brother is inhabited by the ghost of their grandfather. Together they go to the baby’s room to look at it, and Don comforts her by telling her that the baby is not her Grandpa: “This is your brother. We don’t know who he is yet, or what he’s going to be. And that is a wonderful thing.” And then the episode fades to black and “Song to Woody” starts playing over the closing credits.
Bob Dylan’s “Song to Woody” is really a song about identity—or, more accurately, it’s about the lack of identity that comes with youth. It’s about how people define themselves before they’ve done anything important. And it is the most beautiful and brilliant song on Dylan’s first album. Continue reading