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“I Don’t Know What It Tastes Like To You” – Understanding Experiences

Posted Mar 17 2010 12:00am

A passage from a writing of Ernest Hemmingway:

As I ate the oysters with their
strong taste of the sea...

...and their faint metallic taste... I drank their cold liquid
from each shell...

...and washed it down
with the crisp taste of the wine...

...I lost the empty feeling...

...and began to be happy."

“He never forgets to describe
how things taste, I like that”

An excerpt from the movie “City of Angels”

She bites into a pear:

“What's it taste like?

Describe it. Like Hemingway.”

“Well, it tastes like...

...a pear.”

“You don't know what a pear tastes like?”

“I don't know what a pear
tastes like to you.”



Soft on your tongue.
Grainy... sugary sand that
dissolves in your mouth.

The above is an excerpt from the script of the movie “City of Angels”. Seth is an angel who is falling in love with a human woman and in this scene he is trying to appreciate the sense of taste which he does not have. He finds the descriptive words of Hemmingway provide him insight into what the sense of taste may be like. He asks the woman to use words to describe what the taste of a pear is like. My favorite line is when she asks “You don’t know what a pear tastes like?” and he responds “I don’t know what a pear tastes like to you”.

“I don’t know what a pear tastes like to you” is a very powerful line and thought for we so often assume that the experience of others is the same experience we have and because we often make that assumption we miss out on understanding another persons experience and what the impact of that experience is.

In certain circumstances we recognize that our experiences our different. Food is a great example of this. I may like the smooth crisp minty taste and the semi-sweetness of the chocolate chips that melt in my mouth when I eat chocolate chip mint ice cream while another person cannot stand to eat the same ice cream because they don’t enjoy the mixing of textures in their food, that is they don’t want the hard chocolate chip mixed in with their smooth ice cream. We readily accept that when it comes to food we each have a unique experience. We are less understanding about many other aspects of life.  We may know someone who seems to have everything they want in their life yet they are miserable with their experience while we believe given the same experience we would be overjoyed.

It is important to know that we don’t know what the experience is like for another person unless we ask them. It is dangerous for us to assume that everyone will have the same experience. One size does not fit all.

Often times we create separation in our relationships by not taking the time to appreciate the experience of others. Maybe someone you know loves opera and yet you find it a bore. If you were to ask the person describe the opera to you, describe how it feels they may say something like “The opera makes me feel passion, the music moves my heart, tears fill my eyes with the romance of the scene and for the time I am at the opera the world stops for me, I leave my worries and troubles at the door and I am transported to a majestic place where I feel more alive than I do at any other time!” I ask you, would you not want to support that persons desire to attend the opera, would you not want to hold that person’s hand and be part of that experience for that person, would your experience of the opera not be changed forever if only to see the joy of the other person? The answer is of course you would and instead of separation you would be able share an experience in a whole new way which would strengthen your relationship.

Once we understand the experience of the other person we gain a deeper appreciation of who they are and why they do what they do.

I encourage you today to take the time to understand your experiences on a deeper level. When you eat a meal today, take the time to describe your experience. You will find if the food is good you will savor the food that you are eating and if the food is junk you will realize that it is junk and since there is nothing to savor that there is no real reason to eat it. (Sometimes we are just eating to eat, not because we are really enjoying what we eat). Many of our experiences are like this; sometimes we are just doing to do and not taking the time to savor the experience.

The next step is to ask others to describe their experiences which will create a higher awareness of the experience for the person you are asking and help you to increase your experience for that person.

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