Saturday, February 8, 2014

Sally and Anne and you and I.

In the basket or the box? Careful: one answer
is much more empathetic than the other.
Although somewhat controversially used to determine autism spectrum tendencies, The Sally-Anne Test, developed in the 80s, measures children's cognitive functioning to help verify "theory of mind" and its key by-product: empathy. It determines if children can extend their thinking beyond that early egocentric childhood phase.

Sally and Anne were my first thoughts upon recently learning this word:

sonder (noun): the emotional realization inspired by the truth that all of the 7 billion people on this planet are living their own lives, each fraught with troubles and joys and ideas and dreams and darknesses similar yet different than mine or yours. 

For me, sonder is what I think I feel when I people-watch and wonder. It's what I think I feel when I ride the subway only remotely encountering and briefly interacting with strangers, silently seeing our worlds meet and part and meet and part again. It makes me feel small. It also inspires in me a longing for all the people and culture and stories and perspectives I will never live long enough to truly understand.

I love this word.

Sonder seems to me a solid reminder of how to be human. I know where Sally will look for her marble and thus I must respect all. In other words, I cannot fully know Sally or Anne or anyone but I do know the struggle itself. We are separate yet together, different yet the same.


Rubye Jack said...

I'm still trying to figure where Sally will look.
Seriously, this is a very good word and I had never heard it before. Maybe the more people who learn it, the more who will begin to look around them at all the other worlds.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

You ponder sonder well.

Anonymous said...

What Debra said! I understand your longing. I've felt it, too. You express it so well.

Pickleope Von Pickleope said...

I had to do a little homework for this one. I looked up the Sally-Anne Test to see how it works...and I may have autism. Then I looked up "sonder" because I thought it might be a portmanteau, only to discover that it originated in the "Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows" which makes it doubly awesome.

Kerry said...

The dictionary of obscure sorrows? Wow. Sonder is such a terrific word that I might have to look for that book.

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