Everyone is a little self-centred. Some more than others, but all of us are ultimately restricted to our own perspective. In times of anger, want, or desperation, it’s easy for this to be exacerbated; to see those around us as only pieces in our puzzle or extras in a story written, directed by and starring us.
How will that person further me in my career? How does that person fit inside my group of friends?
I came across the word ‘sonder’ recently, and its meaning proves a good antidote to this kind of thinking.
the realisation 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.
I’ve read this back a few times now and its words stir up feelings of both melancholy and a quiet kind of optimism. It suggests that, ultimately, our story really doesn’t matter in the scheme of things; that we’ll never be privy to so many of the world’s interesting hidden lives; that we still have so much to learn and discover from other people.
Our ego can sometimes disavow this want for understanding, but I think it’s important to stay humble and be humbled when necessary. And with the state of the world right now – where some of its most powerful figures seem to run on ego alone – it’s something we have to exercise on a daily basis.
We all have different experiences, marginalisations, and crosses to bear, whatever they may be. We also have pictures in our mind’s eye just as rich as the next person’s.
So level down, reach out, and grasp at the life around you. It’s just as beautiful and incidental as you are.
Words by Sebastian Moore.
Image by Chloe Coates.