Meraki 10/31 #SOL2023

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows came into my life in October of 2014 with “Sonder” and the accompanying video. I’d often thought about the limits of English, or maybe I should say my limits to find the words to convey some emotion of sadness, despair, some bone-felt experience of sorrow.

And, this concept of “sonder”, of everyone having a story, intersecting, overlapping, invisible threads of story which murmur across the landscape of time and place, well — that was just inspiring to me. I loved everything creative about the development of new words to solidify our experience. And here was a visual and auditory explanation of a word that didn’t exist, someone proposing a word that encapsulated this complex idea; so complex that it needed a video nearly three minutes long to explain the meaning of “sonder”.

Several years later when John Koenig published his dictionary, I bought the physical book and thumbed through pages during morning reads with students, skipping some, returning to others. Until Meraki seized me by the throat and I closed the hardbound pocket-sized book of imaginary words at that page. The response surprized me. These words do not exist, I told myself, and moved on with work, with home, with life. Being an English teacher makes me believe in the authenticity of words. This obscure word which grabbed me held no power, so I dismissed it.

Until this week, when I opened the Dictionary again to this very same magical word. I realized that belief in this word is not required; it happens anyway and that part of myself is always leaving me and never staying. The part of myself that I give is no longer mine.

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