A Philosophical Epiphany
Sonder is the word that was created by John Koenig. According to Koenig it is, “ the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.” This will be our point of departure. Have you ever sat in a park and observed your surroundings? If you’re in a busy city like Toronto, the correct term might be people watching. I do it all the time. But when I do this, I try my hardest to push aside judgments and preconceived notions. People who wear nice clothing aren’t always nice, and people who wear dirty clothes aren’t always mean and scary — at least in my experience. With the judgments aside, I just watch. People talking, laughing, smiling — but why?
What’s your story like?
I believe Sonder to be real. It echoes of the ancient ideas of harmonization, unification and the cessation of what we call ‘I’ in Eastern Philosophy. In short, when we dissolve ‘I’ we also dissolve ‘other’, thus we see everyone as different configurations of ourselves. You can imagine how important this is to becoming more accepting of others. What makes you who you are? What do you value in life? Which miniature stories make up the bigger story in your life? I think it is important we know what makes us who we are, so that we can rely on one way of knowing we have purpose in our lives.
When we discuss our lives to others, we have the tendency to privilege the more successful artifacts of our past. I’ll be the first to admit that I do this. Paradoxically, pain has brought me closer to people than any academic or workplace achievement ever has. Our ability as humans to connect to one another, to share our stories of pain, is what I believe to be one of our most powerful assets. Each of us lives with pain, but what makes this such a beautiful thing is that we have learned to lead meaningful lives with pain. It is consoling to know that there are people out there with the same pain, ready to take the necessary steps on how to live with it. You could even be that person.
At the crossroads
I like to think of one thing when I meet new people. Am I going to add something positive or negative to their story? This helps me set the groundwork of how I intend to give this person my attention and respect. I also see it as an opportunity to work on my skills as a listener. I want whoever is interacting with me to leave feeling like they felt heard — because sometimes that’s all we need. If others are living lives just as vivid and complex as ours, with aspirations, fears and anxieties just like your own, why not endeavor to understand them? I may not be able to solve or cure your problems, but I am interested in hearing what it is you feel comfortable sharing.
I believe there is immense power in simply talking about things. Even more so, I place importance on the discussion of opinions. You’ll be amazed at how you can guide a conversation by replying ‘why?’ over and over. People really do have a lot to share if you create the atmosphere in which they feel comfortable doing so!
Get out there and start talking to people. Personally, I average one conversation with someone I don’t know each day. Again, these are opportunities to discuss ideas, become a better listener and conversationalist. Remember…Sonder! This can even extend to people you know. Shoot someone a casual text asking how they are, or invite them out to coffee. Catching up with people you care about can’t be a bad thing, right? Let them update you on their story, and you can do the same. It is a good feeling knowing someone is in your corner.
** Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I appreciate your support. If you enjoyed this (or if you didn’t) please leave a comment down below! **