I came across this clip of a blind chef competing on Masterchef, and I think it’s a good follow up to Jon’s Marklar post on the importance of observation. When Gordon Ramsay describes the way the apple pie looks and sounds, I am able to connect with the contestant, Christine Ha, on a deeper level. Before, I was impressed by a blind person cooking. Now I’m emotionally invested in her. Now I care what her fate on the show is.
I can’t really relate to being blind. But Chef Ramsay’s observations help me begin to empathize, and not just with Christine’s blindness. His description leads the way to some poignant insight. His conclusion isn’t “Congratulations Christine, you overcame your blindness and made a great pie.” He does congratulate her on a great pie, but he uses his observations to address her insecurity and self-criticism. Self-doubt, not blindness, is the demon Christine will have to contend with in the competition. Chef Ramsay’s acute observation brings to light this more subtle and universal truth. We may not be chefs, or reality show contestants, or blind, but we all know what self-doubt is.
Observations draw us into stories. But to convey and evoke emotions, observations must become something more powerful. They must become discoveries.