Simply sondering

We were in our early 20s, me and a friend who'd become a flatmate, and one memorable night we stood on our apartment's balcony, and looked at the freeway's traffic in the distance. What we saw was nothing unusual. You've seen it many times. Uncountable thousands of vehicles, a river of white headlights going one direction, and red taillights going the other way. You couldn't even distinguish individual taillights, just blurs and colors.

There wasn't any marijuana involved that night, but we were awestruck to think that every pair of those dots was actually a car, maybe a truck. Inside each of those vehicles was at least a driver, and perhaps passengers. Inside each of those humans were plans and disappointments, dreams and mourning, and memories happy and sad.

All around us is an endless parade of people, each of them with their own families and histories and issues that seem enormous to them, individually, but mean nothing to the rest of us. Or damned close to nothing.

There's not quite a word for this in English, but some call it 'sonder'.

All those billions of people, each with a life as complicated and difficult as yours, or more so. What they're doing is as important to them as what you're doing is important to you. When they die, same as when you die, the chemistry of their bodies will return to the soil, the sky, the universe.

Their problems will be finished, same as yours, and they'll begin to be forgotten, same as you, same as all of us — we're of no consequence to those who follow into the future. And then each of the next generation's billions will have their own hopes and worries and fear and heartbreak, until their lives are over and they're forgotten, too.

The last time I said some of this to someone, they told me it's a terribly sad perspective, and I need to drink more, or drink less, or see a counselor. But I don't think it's sad. It's beautiful, ain't it? We live, we worry, we have a few laughs, and then we die, and we're gone, and everything starts again.



← PREVIOUS          NEXT →


  1. Captain HampocketsMay 28, 2021 at 3:49 PM

    I have this feeling VERY often. I like to people-watch, and I sometimes just follow someone in my mind for much longer than they are actually in my sight.

  2. I told captain hampockets that I was saving this site and here I am. I don't know either of you in person but I am glad I found you online. It's a weird and wonderful thing that I found you in the first place and you make my world a little bit of a better place. Thank you from Canada.

    1. Welcome, Unknown, and thank you for the kind words. In person, trust me, I'm a disappointment, but I'm glad you're here.


The site's software sometimes swallows comments. For less frustration, send an email and I'll post it as a comment.