The word "sonder" means: "The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own." It's kind of overwhelming to think about, but I guess I think about it all the time- even before I knew the word for it.
I saw an old man walking across the street the other day- he was wearing these beige colored corduroys. The pants seemed roomy and comfortable, and you could just tell he wears them a lot- like- they're his go-to pair. For whatever reason, I wondered whether or not he picked them out for himself, or whether his wife bought them for him. Maybe they were a hand-me-down. The guy didn't exactly look like a clotheshorse or anything, but there was something about the pants that just seemed very "him" to me, and I only knew him for as long as it took him to cross the street.
I think about that stuff all the time.
I guess it's kind of like a cross between empathy and humility. Maybe it's just being nosy- but it's a pretty wild truth: Realizing that the world isn't just your own. Wondering about people: Their who, their why, and their how.
It's like that weird feeling you get when you first see your teacher outside of the classroom enjoying a life you know nothing about.
There's a game I sometimes play called "Who are they". Basically, you point out a couple or a random stranger and you improvise a life story for them in the time it takes them to walk past you. Woody Allen and Diane Keaton play the game in Annie Hall, but I'm not sure who invented it- it might just be an instinctual thing. People usually play it while sitting on a park bench or waiting at the airport. People play it in the spare time of their own life.
The surreal part is: although we conjure up a past, present, and a future for them: they all actually do have life stories. Real life stories. We just never really give them credit for it. We use other people's existence to pass the time. The clerk at the post office is only just a clerk at the post office to us- and we are only just their customers. Everyone could easily be a robot. It's only when you stop and think about it that we all become human.
I LOVE the book "It Chooses You" by Miranda July. It's a super refreshing collection of fascinating interviews with random (fascinating) people that sell items in the Pennysaver. She really gets in there and lets us experience the real-ness of people right alongside her.
It's hilarious and heartbreaking and awkward and genuine and totally holy-shit bizarre.
There are a lot of AMAZING WTF moments in this book, and Miranda July captures them all beautifully with her writing style and relentless observations. Photographer Brigitte Sire gives even more life to each person's story with her photo portraits and pictures of things you kind of have to see to believe...and in some cases, kind of have to un-see, too.
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