I love words that perfectly capture a feeling or experience (as you may remember from past Reflections on Arete, Mokusu, Kintsugi, and Shokunin Kishitsu). Just last week Julia, a member of the Holstee community in Austria, reminded me of another such word: Sonder.
Sonder — noun. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own — populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness — an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you'll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk. (via the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)
The definition gives me goosebumps every time I read it. It’s such a concise and beautiful way to describe a reality that I too often forget.
It’s easy to experience life from the lens of our own eyes, with ourselves at the center of our narrative. But we are, of course, part of everyone else's stories as well and these stories are deeply intertwined and interconnected. And in subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle ways, we influence the trajectories of the people around us, those we have yet to meet and even those we will never get the chance to encounter.
Kinship is our catch-all theme for exploring all types of relationships. Whether you realize it or not, you play a part in an endlessly-unfolding story. Not only that, but you are writing your own script for it.
Make it a good one,
P.S. The word Sonder is the invention of John Koenig, creator of The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. “Each original definition aims to fill a hole in the language — to give a name to emotions we all might experience but don’t yet have a word for. All words in this dictionary are new. They were not necessarily intended to be used in conversation, but to exist for their own sake; to give a semblance of order to a dark continent, so you can settle it yourself on your own terms, without feeling too lost — safe in the knowledge that we’re all lost.”
P.P.S. Our Kinship Guide (Member Content) helps you reflect on the role of different relationships in your life. If you haven’t yet, take a moment for yourself and the guide.
Not yet a member? By becoming a member, you not only support our work but you also get immediate access to this Guide as well as all our past digital guides and art. Learn more about the Holstee Membership →
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This article is part of our series on the theme of Kinship.EXPLORE Kinship →
Distilled from our Manifesto, positive psychology, the science of mindfulness, and ancient philosophic studies we have identified twelve themes core to living both fully and mindfully. We mapped these twelve themes to each of the twelve months in a year. Together with our community we explore one each month.VIEW OUR THEMES →