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The Word "Sonder": It's Meaning and a Poetic Example

John is a poet and short fiction writer who enjoys collaborating on stories with other writers, and partaking in challenges.

Brussels market scene: Image by Walkerssk from Pixabay

Brussels market scene: Image by Walkerssk from Pixabay

What is Sonder?

Sonder: (noun)

Definition: 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." (provided by Kyler J Falk)

Example of use: I had a moment of sonder, realizing that the random girl sitting next to me on the bus, and checking her phone, could be dealing with a terminally ill family member, or instead may have a joyful and fulfilling life.

It is terribly rude to tell people that their troubles are boring.

— Lemony Snicket

Word Prompt Inspiration

I must thank fellow writers Kyler J Falk and Brenda Arledge for this word prompt and the inspiration to write about a word that is new to me and many others... sonder."

This will be the very first article I have written since the new, and disappointing, change to comments has been announced. I really have no need to expand here, because you have probably already read the official announcement about comments being allowed on AxleAddict, but nowhere else. If you haven't read that you will soon realize when you cannot comment here.

I will try to share a link on a forum post started by Brenda, and let's see if we can generate comments there. It will be an interesting experiment.

Street scene: Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Street scene: Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

A Sense of Sonder

My mind had cause to wander

and I felt a sense of sonder.

As people passed me in the street

it gave me much to ponder.


What was occurring in their lives?

Had their day been good or bad?

Perhaps it had been worse than mine.

Did they feel happy, angry, sad?


We often become self-absorbed,

our own troubles weigh us down.

We don't acknowledge strangers' woes,

with a smile or even frown.


Financial troubles they may face,

or a loved one very ill,

a relationship that's fractured,

or a life that's full of thrills.


I looked first near, then yonder

until I saw my colleague Rhonda.

I invited her to sit with me,

To her quickly growing fonder.


Then I realised I knew little

about her situation.

So, I asked about her private life,

and she expressed such deep elation.


She looked at me in wonder,

appearing unencumbered.,

as she told me of her goals and dreams,

as with questions, I did prod her.


So, let's reflect with sonder,

Concerned like first responders.

Show interest in those around,

Don't be a sad absconder.


Couple, outdoor cafe: Image by Printergy from Pixabay

Couple, outdoor cafe: Image by Printergy from Pixabay

SONDER ~ an Acrostic Poem

Sometimes we can be self-absorbed

Oblivious to all those we encounter

No knowledge of their lives, obstacles, or joys

Deaf and dumb to what their day holds

Everyone has a place in this world of ours

Remember that they are all just the same as you

© 2021 John Hansen

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