The People You Walk Past

There’s this lovely German word, sonder. It’s lovely, not simply for its pronunciation or inflection but for a semantic change made by The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows:

n. 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.

That was the word that came to mind when I heard the phrase, ‘the people you walk past’ today while listening to one of my all-time favorite podcasts. There’s also some other philosophical concept in the same vein as sonder, that each of us is our own hero in our own story. Even if, for some of us, we’re the anti-hero or even the villain.

It falls back into my previous post about existentialism to a degree. Again though, I’m not a philosopher even though a number of people have suggested I read such-and-such work or writing about a philosophical subject or idea and I never really find the interest in it. I don’t know why. I probably should get around to doing that. I probably should get around to doing a lot of things.


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