Word of the Day is an old game, played since my daughter was a little girl as a means for her to learn new vocabulary. It began as a bath time activity with a word pencilled on a newly invented, yellow Post-It stuck on the tile above the faucets.

Sonder, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, John Koenig

Today, forty years later, my daughter and I still exchange new words we’ve just discovered. My word for her today, stumbled upon on at Nancy Friedman’s blog, Fritinancy is sonder. It was coined by John Koenig, creator of The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, a web series that defines newly invented words for strangely powerful emotions.

Sonder, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, John Koenig

Sonder names a deeply beautiful concept: a realization of one’s place in the universe among the millions of others, whose complex life stories will forever remain mysterious and hidden to us, but equally as important as our own.

Sonder, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, John Koenig

Indisputably, we are each of us the stars of our own movies. But, sonder reminds us, that’s not all. We are also bit players in a much, much larger drama. Koenig sums it up like this:

The awareness that everyone has a story – that all the random passersby you see around you have an emotional life just as rich as yours, even though to you they’re just an extra in the background.

His lyrical short video, above, describes sonder in all its nuance.

Sonder, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, John Koenig

Consider how marvelous it is to appear as supporting cast in a million other movies you will never see, how your anonymous presence enriches others’ life stories, much as theirs does yours…

…And how it is that – just by being alive – you are participating in a mega movie called “The Universe” … And how marvelous that all of us – by co-existing – guarantee it’s a blockbuster hit. 

In these uncertain times, how comforting it is to imagine seeing these words before the credits roll:  

Big Thanks to everyone! You matter!

S.B. Dworski

More from S.B. Dworski

If you’ve found illumination, joy, or inspiration in this post, please consider supporting Improvised Life. It only takes a minute to make a secure donation that helps pay our many costs. A little goes a long way towards helping Improvised Life continue to live ad-free in the world.

Support Improvised Life ♥

2 replies on “S.B. Dworski Ponders “Sonder”

  1. Really enjoying my daily dose of inspiration. I am a teacher of creative writing and some of the ideas here are in turn helping to inspire my students. Thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.