Something Worth Sharing: The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

My friends are tired of hearing about everything I read, watch, and think about. Maybe they have a point. I’ve lost hours of sleep and points off my GPA watching Youtube videos and scouring the Internet for cool content. I’m the kind of guy that makes people watch films like American Beauty or A Clockwork Orange, and as I go on about the beauty of film, they’re, understandably, creeped out. I start to say “You guys ever think about how…” and they roll their eyes. 

So for the sake of my friends’ sanity, I figured I’d write about some stuff worth sharing. It might be weekly, biweekly, bimonthly, or semiannually… we’ll see how this goes. 

A few weeks ago I came across the “Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.” Created by John Koenig, the web series puts words to feelings that have not been defined in the English language. According to Koenig, his videos “define newly invented words for strangely powerful emotions.” I think this guy takes himself too seriously sometimes, but one video in particular resonated with me.

Sonder: the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.

Every once in awhile when walking down the street, I suddenly realize that everyone around me has a network of family, friends, and problems that I’ll never know about. That homeless man on the corner has a story. The waiter that served me an overpriced burger may be using my tip to pay his tuition.  The girl that smiled at me in class probably has a boyfriend.

I like thinking about relationships the way Koenig describes them. I am the main character, and around me is a supporting cast, network of acquaintances, and extras. It is disheartening, but nonetheless true, that I put people in marginal positions in this three-part system. It is so easy to let extras remain extras and to let those closest to you become acquaintances.

But I also appear in the supporting cast, network of acquaintances, and as an extra in other people’s stories. Being wrapped up in my own head sometimes makes it difficult to realize my significance to some and insignificance to most.  

Anonymity is not a tragedy. There’s only so much of the world we are capable of experiencing. Only so many people we can meet. Knowing that there are countless lives occurring in your periphery doesn’t mean life is tragically void of relationships. It just means that we must cherish those closest to us, appreciate those “who drift in and out of contact over the years,” and recognize the importance and complexity of all lives.

By naming his web series the “Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows” and saying things like “bearing the accumulated weight of their own ambitions…” I can’t help but feel that my man John is forcing a somber, pretentious tone. Regardless, I think it’s a video and a thought worth sharing. Next time you make eye contact with a random passerby, remember that everyone has a story.


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