The Uncanny Cake of Unfamiliar Experiences

Pound_layer_cakeI can’t remember who it was exactly that said it, but someone on the internet made an interesting analogy using cakes. Yes, cakes. They said that we often claim we want new things and new experiences, kind of like wanting a new cake than the usual one we always eat. However, when we do get that cake, we find that we don’t quite like the taste and we realize that we actually crave the familiar feeling of the old cake. I’m likely paraphrasing (and possibly butchering) the good analogy they used, but the message itself was intriguing. I at least like what they meant by it.

It’s true to an extent, that we try to find new experiences because either we get tired of our current one or we want a change of pace. But sometimes when we try the new thing we end up not enjoying ourselves, ironically because it’s not like the old thing. This can apply to movies, games, TV shows, music, anime or whatever; we all have our comfort zones and rarely do we step outside them. Upon doing so we quickly understand just how uncomfortable being outside of your comfort zone is.

Sure, we all claim to hate tropes, stereotypes and cliches, but a lot of people rely more of them in their entertainment than they’d care to admit. Of course the guy saving the day and getting the girl is tired and old, but imagine your shock/horror when instead everyone dies at the end, leaving you unsatisfied. Now, I’m not saying that artists and storytellers shouldn’t strive for unique stories, far from it for me to say that everything should be played safe. However, ‘different’ doesn’t automatically equal good, and writing a narrative that sits outside of most people’s comfort zones won’t always go down well with people. It takes masterful execution to accomplish something that’s both different and satisfying.

I don’t know the exact science for it, but there’s probably a point in all our lives when we eventually find what best suits us. Whatever cliches or stereotypes we tend to gravitate too might just stay locked for a long time. We like the familiarity of the cake we consume all the time, and try as we might it’s hard to get away from it. Sometimes we fully accept new cakes and consume them just as easily, and they soon become part of what we like. People are complex, emotions aren’t always set in stone and we’re free to change our minds about things. The length to which we think we’re willing to go to gain new experiences is surprisingly limited. I’d even go as far to say that what we want are new experiences that are different enough that it’s worthwhile visiting, but familiar enough that you feel at home with them. As I mentioned before, it’s hard to execute such a feat but if it can be accomplished then you’ve found yourself from gold. Until then, don’t hate the familiar cake, sometimes it’s all you need.

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