Dictionary Of Obscure Sorrows Quotes

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Sonder - n. the realization 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.
John Koenig (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)
OZURIE feeling torn between the life you want and the life you have
John Koenig (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)
Sonder. You are the main character—the protagonist—the star at the center of your own unfolding story. You're surrounded by your supporting cast: friends and family hanging in your immediate orbit. Scattered a little further out, a network of acquaintances who drift in and out of contact over the years. But there in the background, faint and out of focus, are the extras. The random passersby. Each living a life as vivid and complex as your own. They carry on invisibly around you, bearing the accumulated weight of their own ambitions, friends, routines, mistakes, worries, triumphs and inherited craziness. When your life moves on to the next scene, theirs flickers in place, wrapped in a cloud of backstory and inside jokes and characters strung together with countless other stories you'll never be able to see. That you'll never know exists. 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.
The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
Emotions are none of these. As a result, there’s a huge blind spot in the language of emotion, vast holes in the lexicon that we don’t even know we’re missing. We have thousands of words for different types of finches and schooners and historical undergarments, but only a rudimentary vocabulary to capture the delectable subtleties of the human experience.
John Koenig (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)
We take it for granted that life moves forward. You build memories; you build momentum.You move as a rower moves: facing backwards. You can see where you've been, but not where you’re going. And your boat is steered by a younger version of you. It's hard not to wonder what life would be like facing the other way. Avenoir. You'd see your memories approaching for years, and watch as they slowly become real. You’d know which friendships will last, which days are important, and prepare for upcoming mistakes. You'd go to school, and learn to forget. One by one you'd patch things up with old friends, enjoying one last conversation before you meet and go your separate ways. And then your life would expand into epic drama. The colors would get sharper, the world would feel bigger. You'd become nothing other than yourself, reveling in your own weirdness. You'd fall out of old habits until you could picture yourself becoming almost anything. Your family would drift slowly together, finding each other again. You wouldn't have to wonder how much time you had left with people, or how their lives would turn out. You'd know from the start which week was the happiest you’ll ever be, so you could relive it again and again. You'd remember what home feels like, and decide to move there for good. You'd grow smaller as the years pass, as if trying to give away everything you had before leaving. You'd try everything one last time, until it all felt new again. And then the world would finally earn your trust, until you’d think nothing of jumping freely into things, into the arms of other people. You'd start to notice that each summer feels longer than the last. Until you reach the long coasting retirement of childhood. You'd become generous, and give everything back. Pretty soon you’d run out of things to give, things to say, things to see. By then you'll have found someone perfect; and she'll become your world. And you will have left this world just as you found it. Nothing left to remember, nothing left to regret, with your whole life laid out in front of you, and your whole life left behind.
The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
Opia. So much can be said in a glance. Such ambiguous intensity, both invasive and vulnerable—glittering black, bottomless and opaque. The eye is a keyhole, through which the world pours in and a world spills out. And for a few seconds, you can peek through into a vault, that contains everything they are. But whether the eyes are the windows of the soul or the doors of perception, it doesn't matter: you're still standing on the outside of the house. Eye contact isn't really contact at all. It's only ever a glance, a near miss, that you can only feel as it slips past you. There’s so much we keep in the back room. We offer up a sample of who we are, of what we think people want us to be. But so rarely do we stop to look inside, and let our eyes adjust, and see what's really there. Because you too are peering out from behind your own door. You put yourself out there, trying to decide how much of the world to let in. It's all too easy for others to size you up, and carry on their way. They can see you more clearly than you ever could. And yours is the only vault you can't see into, that you can't size up in an instant. So we're all just exchanging glances, trying to tell each other who we are, trying to catch a glimpse of ourselves, feeling around in the darkness.
The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
Your life is written in indelible ink. There's no going back to erase the past, tweak your mistakes, or fill in missed opportunities. When the moment's over, your fate is sealed. But if look closer, you notice the ink never really dries on any our experiences. They can change their meaning the longer you look at them. Klexos. There are ways of thinking about the past that aren't just nostalgia or regret. A kind of questioning that enriches an experience after the fact. To dwell on the past is to allow fresh context to trickle in over the years, and fill out the picture; to keep the memory alive, and not just as a caricature of itself. So you can look fairly at a painful experience, and call it by its name. Time is the most powerful force in the universe. It can turn a giant into someone utterly human, just trying to make their way through. Or tell you how you really felt about someone, even if you couldn't at the time. It can put your childhood dreams in context with adult burdens or turn a universal consensus into an embarrassing fad. It can expose cracks in a relationship that once seemed perfect. Or keep a friendship going by thoughts alone, even if you'll never see them again. It can flip your greatest shame into the source of your greatest power, or turn a jolt of pride into something petty, done for the wrong reasons, or make what felt like the end of the world look like a natural part of life. The past is still mostly a blank page, so we may be doomed to repeat it. But it's still worth looking into if it brings you closer to the truth. Maybe it's not so bad to dwell in the past, and muddle in the memories, to stem the simplification of time, and put some craft back into it. Maybe we should think of memory itself as an art form, in which the real work begins as soon as the paint hits the canvas. And remember that a work of art is never finished, only abandoned.
The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
Such is life. Some days you wake up in Kansas, and some days in Oz. Sometimes the world feels pretty much stuck in place, and you’ve made your peace with that. Why waste time on silly pipe dreams, when there are socks to darn and pigs to feed? At other times, you look around and see how exciting the world can be, how flexible and arbitrary things are, how easy it might be to cast aside your old life and get to work building the one you really want.
John Koenig (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)
You were born on a moving train. And even though it feels like you're standing still, time is sweeping past you, right where you sit. But once in a while you look up, and actually feel the inertia, and watch as the present turns into a memory —as if some future you is already looking back on it. Dès Vu. One day you’ll remember this moment, and it’ll mean something very different. Maybe you’ll cringe and laugh, or brim with pride, aching to return. or notice some detail hidden in the scene, a future landmark making its first appearance or discreetly taking its final bow. So you try to sense it ahead of time, looking for clues, as if you’re walking through the memory while it’s still happening, feeling for all the world like a time traveler. The world around you is secretly strange: some details are charming and dated, others precious and irretrievable, but all fade into the quaint texture of the day. You try to read the faces around you, each fretting about the day’s concerns, not yet realizing that this world is already out of their hands. That it doesn’t have to be this way, it just sort of happened, and everything will soon be completely different. Because you really are a time traveler, leaping into the future in little tentative steps. Just a kid stuck in a strange land without a map, With nothing to do but soak in the moment and take one last look before moving on. But another part of you is already an old man, looking back on things. Waiting at the door for his granddaughter, who’s trying to make her way home for a visit. You are two people still separated by an ocean of time, Part of you bursting to talk about what you saw, Part of you longing to tell you what it means.
The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
You were born with your head in the clouds, your future wide open, feeling almost weightless. Almost. Kudoclasm. You had dreams even before you had memories: a cloud of fantasies and ambitions of secret plans and hidden potential, visions of who you are, and what your life will be. They keep your spirits high, floating somewhere above your life, where the world looks faintly hypothetical, almost translucent. But every time you reach for the sky and come away with nothing, you start to wonder what’s holding them up. “Surely it would have happened by now?!” You feel time starting to slip, pulling you back down to earth. even as you tell yourself, don’t look down. You don’t have the luxury of floating through life, because you may not have the time. The future is already rushing toward you, and it’s not as far away as you think. It feels like your life is flashing before your eyes, but it’s actually just the opposite: you’re thinking forward, to everything you still haven’t done, the places you had intended to visit, the life goals you’d eventually get around to, some day in the future. You start dropping your delusions one by one, like tossing ballast overboard. And soon the fog lifts, and everything becomes clear— right until the moment your feet touch the ground. And there it is, “the real world.” As if you’ve finally grown up, steeped in reality, your eyes adjusting to the darkness, seeing the world for what it is. But in truth, you don’t belong there. We dream to survive— no more optional than breathing. Maybe “the real world” is just another fantasy, something heavy to push back against, and launch ourselves still higher. We’re all afraid to let go, of falling into a bottomless future. But maybe we belong in the air, tumbling in the wind. Maybe it’s only when you dive in that you pick up enough speed to shape the flow of reality, and choose your own course, flying not too high, and not too low, but gliding from one to the other in long playful loops. To dream big, and bounce ideas against the world and rise again. Moving so fast, you can’t tell where the dream ends and where the world begins.
The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
The word sadness originally meant "fullness," from the same Latin root, satis, that also gave us sated and satisfaction. Not so long ago, to be sad meant you were filled to the brim with some intensity of experience. It wasn't just a malfunction in the joy machine. It was a state of awareness– setting the focus to infinity and taking it all in, joy and grief all at once. When we speak of sadness these days, most of the time what we really mean is despair, which is literally defined as the absence of hope. But true sadness is actually the opposite, an exuberant upwelling that reminds you how fleeting and mysterious and open-ended life can be. That's why you'll find traces of the blues all over this book, but you might find yourself feeling strangely joyful at the end of it. And if you are lucky enough to feel sad, well, savor it while it lasts– if only because it means that you care about something in this world enough to let it under your skin.
John Koenig (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)
Zenosyne. It's actually just after you're born that life flashes before your eyes. Entire aeons are lived in those first few months when you feel inseparable from the world itself, with nothing to do but watch it passing by. At first, time is only felt vicariously, as something that happens to other people. You get used to living in the moment, because there's nowhere else to go. But soon enough, life begins to move, and you learn to move with it. And you take it for granted that you're a different person every year, Upgraded with a different body...a different future. You run around so fast, the world around you seems to stand still. Until a summer vacation can stretch on for an eternity. You feel time moving forward, learning its rhythm, but now and then it skips a beat, as if your birthday arrives one day earlier every year. We should consider the idea that youth is not actually wasted on the young. That their dramas are no more grand than they should be. That their emotions make perfect sense, once you adjust for inflation. For someone going through adolescence, life feels epic and tragic simply because it is: every kink in your day could easily warp the arc of your story. Because each year is worth a little less than the last. And with each birthday we circle back, and cross the same point around the sun. We wish each other many happy returns. But soon you feel the circle begin to tighten, and you realize it's a spiral, and you're already halfway through. As more of your day repeats itself, you begin to cast off deadweight, and feel the steady pull toward your center of gravity, the ballast of memories you hold onto, until it all seems to move under its own inertia. So even when you sit still, it feels like you're running somewhere. And even if tomorrow you will run a little faster, and stretch your arms a little farther, you'll still feel the seconds slipping away as you drift around the bend. Life is short. And life is long. But not in that order.
The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
the Til n. the reservoir of all possible opportunities still available to you at this point in your life—all the countries you still have the energy to explore, the careers you still have the courage to pursue, the skills you still have time to develop, the relationships you still have the heart to make—like a pail of water you carry around in your head, which starts off feeling like an overwhelming burden but steadily draws down as you get older, splashing gallons over the side every time you take a step.
John Koenig (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)
But true sadness is actually the opposite, an exuberant upwelling that reminds you how fleeting and mysterious and open-ended life can be.
John Koenig (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)
Not so long ago, to be sad meant you were filled to the brim with some intensity of experience.
John Koenig (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)
wildred adj. feeling the haunting solitude of extremely remote places—a clearing in the forest, a windswept field of snow, a rest area in the middle of nowhere—which makes you feel like you’ve just intruded on a conversation that had nothing to do with you, where even the gravel beneath your feet and the trees overhead are holding themselves back to a pointed, inhospitable silence. From wild + dread. Pronounced “wil-drid.
John Koenig (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)
idlewild adj. feeling grateful to be stranded in a place where you can’t do much of anything—sitting for hours at an airport gate, the sleeper car of a train, or the backseat of a van on a long road trip—which temporarily alleviates the burden of being able to do anything at any time and frees up your brain to do whatever it wants to do, even if it’s just to flicker your eyes across the passing landscape. From Idlewild, the original name of John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.
John Koenig (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)
harmonoia n. an itchy sense of dread when life feels just a hint too peaceful—when everyone seems to get along suspiciously well, with an eerie stillness that makes you want to brace for the inevitable collapse, or burn it down yourself. From harmony + paranoia. Pronounced “hahr
John Koenig (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)
zielschmerz n. the dread of finally pursuing a lifelong dream, which requires you to put your true abilities out there to be tested on the open savannah, no longer protected inside the terrarium of hopes and delusions that you started up in kindergarten and kept sealed as long as you could.
John Koenig (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)
volander n. the ethereal feeling of looking down at the world through an airplane window, able to catch a glimpse of far-flung places you’d never see in person, free to let your mind wander, trying to imagine what they must feel like down on the ground—the closest you’ll ever get to an objective point of view.
John Koenig (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)
licotic adj. anxiously excited to introduce a friend to something you think is amazing—a classic album, a favorite restaurant, a TV show they’re lucky enough to watch for the very first time—which prompts you to continually poll their face waiting for the inevitable rush of awe, only to cringe when you discover all the work’s flaws shining through for the very first time. Old English licode, it pleased [you] + psychotic. Pronounced “lahy-kot-ic.
John Koenig (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)
exulansis n. the tendency to give up trying to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it—whether through envy or pity or mere foreignness—which allows it to drift away from the rest of your story, until it feels out of place, almost mythical, wandering restlessly in the fog, no longer even looking for a place to land. Latin exulans, exile, wanderer, derived from the Latin name of the Wandering Albatross, diomedea exulans, who spend most of their life in flight, rarely landing, going hours without even flapping their wings. The albatross is a symbol of good luck, a curse, and a burden, and sometimes all three at once. Pronounced “ek-suh-lan-sis.” la
John Koenig (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)
exulansis n. the tendency to give up trying to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it—whether through envy or pity or mere foreignness—which allows it to drift away from the rest of your story, until it feels out of place, almost mythical, wandering restlessly in the fog, no longer even looking for a place to land. Latin exulans, exile, wanderer, derived from the Latin name of the Wandering Albatross, diomedea exulans, who spend most of their life in flight, rarely landing, going hours without even flapping their wings. The albatross is a symbol of good luck, a curse, and a burden, and sometimes all three at once. Pronounced “ek-suh-lan-sis.” la cuna n. a twinge of sadness that there’s no frontier left, that as the last explorer trudged his armies toward the last blank spot on the map, he didn’t suddenly turn for home, leaving one last island unexplored so we could set it aside as a strategic reserve of mystery. Latin lacuna, an unfilled space or hole + Spanish la cuna, cradle. Pronounced “lah koo-nuh.
John Koenig (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)
sonder noun. the realization 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.
John Koenig (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)
ETYMOLOGY: Portmanteau of monism + onanism. In philosophy, monism is the view that a variety of things can be explained in terms of a single reality or substance, or a distinct source. Onism is a kind of monism, because your life is indeed limited to a single reality—by virtue of being restricted to a single body—but something is clearly missing. Meanwhile, onanism is another word for self-pleasure, transfixed inside your own menagerie of fantasies
The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
Over time I began to get a sense of how much we all must secretly have in common. How many of us must be burdened by the same unanswerable questions, muttering the same thoughts to the steering wheel or the shower wall. And whenever I felt alone, or confused, or like a stranger to myself, I knew I was tapping into an undercurrent of humanity that connected me invisibly with so many others who feel exactly as I do, each in their own lives. That's the magic of expressing how you feel, as precisely as you can. If nothing else, it can serve as a powerful reminder to all of us that we're not alone.
John Koenig (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)
harke n. a painful memory that you look back upon with unexpected fondness, even though you remember having dreaded it at the time; a tough experience that has since been overridden by the pride of having endured it, the camaraderie of those you shared it with, or the satisfaction of having a good story to tell. From hark back, a command spoken to hunting dogs to retrace their course so they can pick up a lost scent. Pronounced "hahrk.
John Koenig (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)