My word of the week is sonder.

It’s not even a real word.

According to the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, sonder means:

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.

Now haven’t we all felt sonder at some point? That flashing glimpse of perspective into the worlds beyond your own? That brief connection to every other human and their all-consuming and unavoidable egocentricity? That moment we somehow, blissfully, forget ourselves and just see the world for what it is, or at least might be for others?

This word, this is why we write. Stories capture sonder. They bottle it up and let you inside another person’s infinite moments. They let us travel beyond our own eyes, they fill us with the insight and poignancy we need to stay sane during the inherent loneliness of our parallel existences.

Stories are sonder. And sometimes there is swashbuckling and long cons and sweet romances and zombies to go with it, and we are all the better for it.


For more words like sonder, each with their own rarely acknowledged but universally felt philosophical insight into the human condition, check out the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.

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