In case you were wondering what it means to "sonder"
Everyone travels for different reasons. Some simply for the experience of something new, some for rest and relaxation and others for more complex, intrinsically motivated reasons that Elizabeth Gilbert did the best job of explaining. When people ask me why I'm traveling--alone, for such a long time--I can offer lots of reasons why, some more meaningful than others, but what I've started to enjoy more than explaining why, is thinking about what I've gained from it, particularly at this moment after the past three months in Europe.
For starters, I've finally befriended patience. I have come to realize that patience isn't just an obligation we recognize when things aren't happening the way we want them too, but instead a mysterious friend working constantly in the background to ensure life is happening in a way that is most beneficial to our long term happiness. My previous mental personification of him wasn't ever someone I liked because it never offered me in the immediate what I wanted. But somehow throughout the past three months, he's become a much more likeable guy, offering sincere wisdom and a faith-based promise that within him lies some great rewards.
As I've been patiently exploring and waiting to see what happens next, I've repeatedly come across The Wander Society at a number of bookstores I've wandered into (yes, that was intentional) and have become especially exhilarated by the idea of the "art of wandering," and not just for the unexpected thrills it offers in the present moment, but also because of the potential it inherently encompasses for us to notice and even more importantly be involved in in the world around us.
As one of my favorite philosophers Alan Watts said, "The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves." Wandering offers exactly that...the opportunity to simply be alive. I've also fallen in love with this concept because of its inherent utilization of my favorite word, sonder:
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.
I think it's the most beautiful word ever created, both in its articulation and in its meaning.
And possibly the best part of this newfound love of wandering is the realization that we don't just have to wander through streets; we can actively wander/sonder through life, and slowly become acutely aware of everything around us everyday that is nothing short of magical, our appreciation of it strengthened by a simultaneous knowing that everything is always exactly as it should be.
And it's that belief that leads to a genuine appreciation for the world--the good and the bad--which can be difficult to have given the state of tragedy and turmoil that plagues the media waves everyday. Its sounds cliche, maybe even corny. But life has been really really hard lately for lots of people in lots of different places. And taking a moment to acknowledge the helpers and see the sheer will of the human spirit to keep continuing to survive and even thrive in spite of it all...that's pretty incredible. To quote High School Musical: "we're all in this together."
Acknowledging this incredible aspect of the world leads to and undeniable willingness to be excited about life and the world and to see that that beauty can be found everywhere, even in the seemingly darkest of things.
It's been a thoughtful three months. I'll keep sondering on.