THE Common Experience?

Over the months I’ve been at SDMB I’ve started a number of threads and contributed to a number of others where the topic hovered just above the essential question I’d like to pose here. It’s fairly clear that each of us was born, although the actual methods of birth may have differed. Some may have been from multiple births, others from Caeserean, breech birth or anything that would be out of the “normal” method. In any event, it’s going to be hard to deny that we all share the experience of birth.

Other than that, is there anything else that we all have in common?

I had a thread trying to discover if there were some place on the planet where we all may have visited or passed through at one time or another. Result: too varied to be a common experience.

Songs, books, movies, TV shows, radio programs, and other varieties of pop culture always seem to be too territorial or too age specific to have hit all of us.

The fact that some of us are in areas where the language barrier may be significant, or where the cultural differences are extreme enough that “shared experiences” are unlikely, makes it still harder to point to the Common Experience we all have had.

Religions, philosophies, political persuasions, degrees of education, and other such criteria make it unlikely that we all have some common overlap in those areas.

Is there anything beyond birth that we can all cling to as a common denominator of mankind?

Until there’s been some reasonable success with the notion of preserving life indefinitely, a la Walt Disney or Michael Jackson, I guess Death is the only other thing we can all expect to share in.

Surely there’s more to it than that…

It’s a little vague, but “schooling” is probably extremely close to universal.

I don’t necessarly mean just having gone to school every from todddlerhood through the late teen years, as in Western countries. I mean also the experience of having a wiser or more experienced someone teach you something. I mean “learning from others, in both formal and informal settings”.

Well, we all have to breathe, eat, piss, shit, and die.

not to be a downer or anything…

The death of our parents.

There are a number of reoccuring, basic human functions we all do all of the time: eat, sleep, breathe, excrete. They may occur in slightly different ways, but I think it’s close enough.


Okay. I accept the biological functions area, even if one might try to make the case that there are some of us (not on SDMB necessarily) who may have some of these functions being handled by machinery and who may have some other abnormality in these areas (insomnia, eating disorders, living on a ventilator, etc.) that might exclude those individuals from actual sharing of those things with the vast majority of the rest of us. But, not wanting to quibble with the universality of these basic biological needs, let’s just say that I should have included them in the OP with other obvious points in common not just to humanity but to the animal kingdom and even to the plant kingdom in some varieties.

I’d like to focus on whatever it is that’s common to us all that would allow scientists to isolate the character of “human beings” that would distinguish us from other living forms.

( I had hoped this might be a serious discussion, but I’m not that naive. :wink: )

Worry. Worry, worry, worry, worry.

Some people die before their parents.

Yeah, I thought of that. I posted it anyway because it was something that went through my mind while my father was very sick.

Perhaps we could get at the germ of your point by expanding it to “death of loved ones.” Would that be a better (in the sense of more nearly universal) way of putting it?

For those participating in this message board, the guaranteed common experience is the Internet. It sounds glib to say it, but this is a powerful cultural bond for that segment of humanity that partakes.

I’ll second the thought of bordelond, and say cultural transmission by example from our more-experienced elders - Richard Dawkins’ concept of memes. The cultural experiences aren’t the same, but the mechanism of transmission is very similar for all societies, at least in early-to-mid childhood.

Every kid on Earth know what a finger feels like in their nostril. Oops, done with the biological… okay.

How about we all feel compelled to laugh at much of the same things? There are some actions, events if you will, that will make us laugh regardless of where we’re from or the culture in which we’re raised.

Believe it or not, lieu, laughter and appreciation of music are two things that I like to think we all have in common, even if it’s not at the same jokes or styles of music.

I just finished reading the autobiography of the Dali Lama, and he states the common bond for all mankind is that we all seek happiness and try to avoid suffering.

I can’t argue with that.


Heartbreak. Joy. Conflict. Peace. Pain. Pleasure.


Has there ever been a human that ever lived who has not had to deal with the single sock problem? I thought not.

Except for people who you know, don’t *have * socks.

I agree with the worry, worry, worry. Everyone worries about something.

Death and the death of loved ones have been mentioned but I would put it this way : We know we’re going to die.

Ok, that excludes the very young (and the fairly young may find it hard to believe) but the knowelge of our eventual deaths is part of every human life and is distinct to humans. I think that a big shaper of a human life.