Why the silly word, dude? And what’s with the circles?
It would be really hard for me to get into all the meanings that I have for this word, and it would be impossible for me to summarize how I came up with the symbol, or the plethora of things that it means, so let me try to “cut to the chase” and we can get into deep philosophical conversations afterwards.
As a kid, I was a very emotional little thing. I was also raised very conservatively in a Catholic country and by a very united family core. Had I remained that boy, it is very likely that I would have become a highly sensitive conservative on the right side of the spectrum. So imagine myself being represented by this fiery red dot.
But as fate would have it, had to spend my teenage years in a rather non-religious (“liberal”) country that valued freedom and reason. I was also forced to overcome a lot of emotional traumas, and the only way out was for me to reason my way out of them. In other words, I had to swing left further than I had been comfortable with, and I had to rely on reason for all of this. Hence, a part of me could be represented by this cool-headed blue dot.
There’s a good chance you already know where I’m headed here.
Now imagine the first time someone asked me “so, which of these two opposites are you? Are you a right-wing, religious, conservative, and emotional Mexican? Or are you a left-wing, atheistic, liberal and rational American?” Those are genuinely the two identities, the two opposites that I was forced to choose from. Yet I knew that I was neither and both of those things, so I couldn’t choose one without betraying the other, and I couldn’t deny one without implicitly favoring the other. Well, if you’ve read the older About page for this blog, then you should know I am a sucker for neutrality. Genuine neutrality. So rather than choosing between two opposites (non-neutrality) or denying both them (passive neutrality), I lean towards merging them (active neutrality). This is my solution to the philosophical debate about whether are humans are guided by reason or emotion. It’s not one or the other, and it’s definitely not neither. It’s both. Call it “rational emotions” or “emotional rationality”, feel free to prioritize whichever one you want, you get what I mean when I say it’s equally both.
But the most important element of all is the one that’s often missing: Will.
Human action cannot be motivation by reason or emotion if it’s not, well, active. You might have a certain thought, or feel a certain way, but unless you act, then an abstract platonic thought/feeling is all it is; an idea.
Action is an expression of will, and before I lose you with too much philosophy, the point here is that whenever we are presented with a choice between two opposites, a binary choice about who we are or what to do, keep in mind there’s always a third choice: the middle path. Active neutrality. So when I am asked if I am one of two things that identify with, I choose both, and that creates a third option that brings balance to a bipolar conflict.
Sure, we could say that rather than creating a “third”, I should simply focus on the mixture between the original two because “there is no third”. But picture this like having a child. Or picture it as a merger between an Aztec and a Spaniard. At some point there’s a third “whole” or a “mestizo” that can no longer be defined as a mere combination of the previous two. That’s why I simply cut to the chase and always add a third. A neutral third. It might sound like it complicates matters more, but in reality it simply brings things into balance.
Sonder + Bodhi
Now that I’ve officially lost you with all of my philosophy, imagine that the binary conflict is not within one person (as it was for me). Imagine that the identity in question is not within one person but between two people. More specifically, between two minds and two individual perspectives. That’s what bring us to the two components of this made up word.
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— 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. (This is a minor edit from the original which was created by “the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows” on tumblr, but feel free to watch THIS video to get a real feel for the word.)
Bodhi – noun -Term which literally means ‘awakening’, but which is commonly translated as ‘enlightenment’. (See also satori; kenshō).
So essentially, try to put those two concepts together:
“everyone has a story” + “awakening/enlightenment”
Ever since I was a kid, and long before I could represent myself as that first red circle, I’ve always wanted to understand my own mind and other people’s minds. Regardless of what color of dot you are or which side of whatever spectrum you find yourself, we all have a story, and I want to know yours. That’s sonderbodhi in a nutshell. If it doesn’t make sense yet, well, let’s start talking about it so we can merge two stories into one. That’s the whole point of this word anyway…
p.s. If you need a final definition and an extra reason to talk/debate all of this rather than asking me for the “quick answer”, I guess I’ll just confess to you that sonderbodhi is when 2=1. That’s not bad math, it’s just too complicated to summarize into a short blog post, so the formula is the “short version” that most people would ask for 😉