A Blog of Seattle Arts & Lectures

Editor’s Note: On Sonder

By Erin Langner, WITS Program Associate & Sonder Editor

When the eight of us who work at Seattle Arts & Lectures gathered around our postage stamp-sized conference table one rainy afternoon, to brainstorm names for this blog, there wasn’t a clear choice. While other groups may find decisions by consensus a challenge because agreement is lacking, we found ourselves buried in the avalanche of agreement that could only befall a group of people with a passion for words. Every option unleashed a phonetic association that made its physical sound even more relevant, a more obscure definition that added dimension, an image that lent it a new vibrancy. I left the conversation wondering if there was a way for a title to be exchanged every day—we could be the 10-color pen of blogs, sliding in an out of options as the mood struck.

Since then, we had many more meetings about the blog at that table, which also happens to be surrounded by SAL’s collection of books by authors and poets the organization has brought over the years. When we talked about “sonder” there, several days later, we watched the video interpretation of its definition, from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. By then, I had also learned that the word spans several languages. In Afrikkans, it means “without,” in French, it is “to probe,” and in Swedish (as “sönder”), it translates to “asunder.” These disparate uses–and the different stories where the word could appear, around the world –sounded fitting for its English meaning, as “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.”

It was in the same room, in the coming weeks, surrounded by all of SAL’s books and stories, that “sonder” began to look more like a wall of windows into different perspectives. Or, the place to connect the dots between them, as we do when we find a constellation’s alignment. One of the main intentions behind this blog was to create a place for the different voices of the Seattle Arts & Lectures community–writers, speakers, students, teachers, readers, listeners, and all points in between–to be collected, considered and exchanged. The more we looked at SAL and “sonder” together, the more alike they seemed.

And so it is here, on Sonder, that we hope to capture the flicker of others’ vivid complexities before we continue on our way. We are happy you are here with us, in this new place. If you have a story, response, or blog post idea related to SAL’s programs to share, send me your pitch at We’d love to hear your stories, too.