Sonder

Sonder, defined as "the realisation that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own".


When I first took this photo on a recent trip to Rhodes, Greece, I was disappointed that a photo bomber had seemingly ruined the pretty view from the moving coach I was on. The sunsets lasted for what felt like a matter of seconds and capturing it as the doors swung open for a mere minute felt like an opportunity that shouldn't have been missed. As I quickly grabbed my phone whilst in awe of the beautiful view, this person happily strode by with a companion not far behind. "Damn", I thought to myself, the moment disturbed by the presence of another human (how dare they?) but on reflection, the individual made the shot, and encompassed so many feelings I felt whilst on this trip.

When looking back at the photo, I couldn't help but have feelings of sonder. The realisation that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. I wonder who this human was. What their story was. Were they a local? Or a tourist? Why did our paths - almost - cross at that exact moment? Probably for little reason, but it's nice to wonder, to sonder even...

I like the essence of Covid-19 in this photo. The face covering, the hand sanitiser so aptly placed. I wonder what their pandemic story was. I wonder what sort of heartbreak they might have felt over the past year, what sort of pain. We all have stories to tell from over the past year, and beyond, and I bet this individual's are just as vivid and complex as I feel like my own are.

Sometimes we hurt so bad we think we can be the only one that feels that way. But that isn't true, and it's weirdly comforting to know that others feel the same range of emotions, at the same intensity, that we do. There's solace in knowing that you aren't alone in this world, in these crazy times, in the way that you feel. Everybody's lives are so indescribably different and there is no way we could ever understand how someone else's mind works, and vice versa. So though it is a relief to know that other humans feel pain like we do, it is also nice in a sense to know that our lives are so complex, no one could, or truly needs to, know how we feel. We don't need to over explain or over expect. We just need to live alongside each other peacefully and compassionately, having that care for one another even if we can't comprehend the complexity of one another's personal feelings.

As I sit and ponder these thoughts, I think about how there's 7,800,000,000 people in this world and how they are all continually living, carrying on, with their complicated lives. Surviving through the bad times, and good. My lack of awareness of what is going on in their unique lives is just that. My lack. It doesn't mean it doesn't exist or isn't happening, I just don't know about it. It's an interesting thing to ponder. Or sonder. It kind of makes me feel insignificant, which in a way, is good. Like my problems and worries are really not a big issue in the grand scheme of things, because after all, I am just one person in 7.8 billion or whatever that number is, and at that, a speck in an incredibly large universe. When you think about it for too long, it hurts your brain a little.

So here's to celebrating this ridiculously complicated yet insignificant, though relative, life.

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