The Unbearable Lightness of Experience
I watched Silver Linings Playbook for the second time the other day and there was this scene where Bradley Cooper’s character, Pat, was asking Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Tiffany, to dinner while pointing toward a local diner. Tiffany said, “Pick me up at 7.30”—and that was that. The next scene was the two of them walking toward the diner: Tiffany was dressed to impress; Pat, however, didn’t seem to show an effort to dress up. They entered the diner in the middle of a dinner rush and found a table by the window. They were immediately offered a menu. What came next was one of the most interesting banter in modern romances.
“Why did you order Raisin Bran?” asked Tiffany.
“Why did you order tea?” replied Pat.
“Because you ordered Raisin Bran,” said Tiffany.
“I ordered Raisin Bran because I didn’t want any mistaking it for a date,” said Pat.
“It can still be a date if you order Raisin Bran,” returned Tiffany.
There was nothing out of the ordinary about that particular scene — in fact, it is so common you can find it in almost every movie set in a small American town. Yet in the context of the here and now, of life lived alongside the pandemic looming, that scene felt luxurious. Lookat them, I thought to myself as Pat and Tiffany navigated their way through the crowd of diners. Andthat, again as they settled into one of the booths.
I can’t remember the last time I had felt so free in a crowd, navigating my way past random groups of people and eating and drinking in public, always worried someone might sneeze or cough the wrong way.
In the past year, I have minimized visits to public places — coffee houses, restaurants, malls — down to a bare minimum. When I do go to coffee shops or restaurants, I would spend less than an hour there and always with the paranoid approach that I had exposed myself to Covid-19.
I also can’t remember the last time I had engaged in such an easy, yet thought-provoking conversation like the one Pat and Tiffany had at the diner. I mean, who knew Raisin Brand could be code for a secret crush?
Anyway, my point is this: we are the sum of our experiences. The year 2020 had taught us so many things we didn’t think required any learning, at all. It had also taken from us the things we almost always took for granted, the habits we usually wished to do away with, the rituals we were so tired of performing — which now, in retrospect, appear larger than they actually are.
I used to turn down dinner and lunch invitations, because I felt like I needed more time to finish my work and more time for me. This is still true today as it was then, but back then the option to accept those invitations was there for the taking if I wanted it. And, guess what, it turns out that having the option to go out to dinners and lunches matters just as much as my tendency to choose work or personal time over them.
The question is, though: what exactly do I miss?
Most people would say the pandemic deprives them of social interactions, of being among friends and sharing a laugh. Some would be more specific and say the pandemic deprives them of the opportunity to plan the future, to set a goal. And to the ones who’ve experienced losses, the pandemic has done unimaginable things to them which completely change the direction of their lives.
For me, the pandemic has deprived me of a particularly subtle experience: the freedom to trust myself and my body enough to be out and about in the open, because now I am always fearful of the possibility of getting infected or infecting others.
And the deprivation of this particular experience dictates almost everything about the life I am living now — and sadly the only life I know. I am perfectly happy spending five out of seven days a week tinkering in my own study at home; and going to the office twice a week seems the perfect fit, as well.
However, as I sit on my couch at home with my eyes glued to the TV screen, I find this whole ordeal to be heavier than expected — almost unbearable. I can’t trust my body; I can’t control how it will respond to the virus if it were to catch it (knock on wood!) — and who knows whether my protective measures against the virus actually work?
Over the years, people have argued back and forth about the importance of minding your customers’ journey so you can give them the right experience. And over the years, we’ve always been focused more on the big things: how to get them from point A to point B to point C with this and that CTA (call-to-action).
But maybe we should focus more on the little things that give validity to the way we experience life. For example, if your company is trying to sell chocolate-covered wafer bars, maybe the journey your customer takes should be less about hiring the right influencer to influence their buying decision, but more about letting them take part in defining what chocolate means to them (think KitKat’s Have a Break).
Because the little things always matter; and whether you realize it or not, the smallest changes you make in the way you create or distribute your product, matter. Just as the one I am doing right now: reconnecting with you on a Friday, rather than the usual Monday. And also changing the format to a plain letter.
Does it work? Maybe. Let's see what happens.
On screen, Pat is sweeping Tiffany off the dance floor — their faces beaming with sweat.
Here’s wishing you a wonderful weekend with your loved ones!
See you next week?
Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer
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