Sonder

July 7th 2015

Today I learnt a new word. “Sonder”

defn: the realization that a passerby is living a life as complicated as your own.

i just saw this word on twitter but then I started to think about all the times I’ve thought about this but never associated it to any specific word. I think about it mainly when I’m on the motorway, I think about how every person, every car has a different destination, everyone is going somewhere for different reasons, and they’re all joined by this one road, driving metres from eachother but never incercepting or crossing paths (hopefully, or they’ll crash)

I think about it at airports too. Airports are filled with people, each with their own story, their own drama, their own problems, and you enter these peoples lives just by being in the same place as them, but 99% of the time you never affect the life.

I thought about it today in the cinema, too. Whenever I see an old guy come to the cinema alone my heart just breaks and I don’t know why. I just assume that this man is lonely, unmarried, never been loved, never had kids, so he comes to the cinema alone as something to do. And that’s so upsetting. But I don’t know that that’s true. There could be some other reason that he’s there alone, but I’ll never know because he impacts my life without ever intercepting it.

At work when I’m serving a table I never think about customers in a context of being humans outside of the confines of the restaurant, as soon as they leave they disappear to me, and I worry about the next one. We get a fair amount of regular customers, and although I forget a face when they leave the restaurant, I remember one when they came back.

This weekend I served this couple that I’ve served probably 20 times before. Except this time the wife was completely blind. She wore black-out glasses and had one of them seeing-eye sticks. And that upset me more than it probably should’ve done. It was just weird to think that this person who I’ve ‘known’ for so long suddenly came back one day and was blind.

Obviously I didn’t ask what happened, but it was just crazy to me. The last time I served her she was in perfect health, or so it seemed, and then this time she comes in permanently blind. Or perhaps it’s just temporary, I don’t know. Because that’s the thing about ‘sonder’, there are all of these lives that run parallel, and perpendicular, and tangential to yours and you don’t even realise it, you don’t even stop to think.

I’m selfish enough to just ignore the lives around me and focus on my own, but sometimes you notice things. You notice a girl crying and wonder why, you notice a car broken down on the side of the road and you hope that they’ll get home alright, you see someone trip over and you hope that they’re not hurt. And all of these things are happening right in front of you but you just walk on, and get on with your life whilst they get on with theirs.

Until tomorrow, I do at least.

Jacn

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