Living Experiences

The definitions of experience are many and varied, yet no commonly accepted definition exists (Svabo and Shanks, 2015). Experiences are something so inherently tied to self-aware human existence, that it is hard to define experience without using the word experience itself. Experience just is. For much of human history we didn't reason about the fact that we experience, we just lived them.

Our experience of the world is coloured by our perception of it.

Humans have a phenomenal understanding of experience: we see everything that happens to- and around us through filters of our experiences before, like our social or cultural history (Coxon, 2015). Every experience is unique, as it is experienced at a different time, in a different context, by a different person.

Van Manen reasons (1997) that our perception and our recollection of experiences are phenomenal too. As we live through an experience, we record it in our memory with our current phenomenal understanding. When we later recall that experience, it is viewed with our new phenomenal understanding. We construct meaning on top of an experience, and that meaning can change depending on our current world view.

The German philosopher Martin Heidegger (2008) laid a foundation for talking about experiences. He indicated a difference between a singular experience and the cumulative set of experiences that makes us the person we are today.

Our experience of the world is continuous, seamless, and endless: one experience blends into the next. Sometimes we "zone out" for a while, other times we are deeply aware of what happens. Our mental presence (the authenticity of the experience) too is not an on/off switch but rather a spectrum.

Experience isn't just an internal process either. Experience is blending with the world and the world blending with you. Experience is the constant shifting of sense and consciousness.

Human, tool, thought, body flow together. [...] World, sense, body, and I are mingled, intertwined in activity. But this unison is temporary.

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Understanding Experiences