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Morgan Navas | September 15, 2023

onism– n. the frustration of being stuck in just one body, that inhabits only one place at a time, which is like standing in front of the departures screen at an airport, flickering over with strange place names like other people’s passwords, each representing one more thing you’ll never get to see before you die—and all because, as the arrow on the map helpfully points out, you are here.” (Defined by John Koenig in The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows).

I recently stumbled upon this concept whilst researching travel-related words for another project, but something about it really resonated with me and I felt compelled to share. Koenig derives this word from the philosophy of monism, which describes how people can only exist in one body or reality.

 I often get swept up in how big the world around me truly is. As I continue to learn and grow, I am continually discovering new places, people, and perspectives around me, which is awesome, but also can feel super overwhelming. Because in all reality, none of us will ever really get to see the whole world and experience everything there is to.

 So, how do you choose to embrace this reality?

For me personally, I feel this strongest when I see other people’s travel posts. As my travel bucket list continues to get longer, I find myself stressed that I will not get to experience all these places. I try to remind myself that my experience does not have to follow the path of someone else’s, and in reality, it likely will look different from others. And the fact that everyone has unique experiences to share is part of what brings people together.

On the contrary, imagining a reality where we could experience every lifestyle and experience may not truly fulfill us either. I think living in a world where everyone was able to live a thousand lives and see the entire world might make us stagnant, creating a close-minded humanity. Would we still feel a desire to connect with others if we already had the knowledge ourselves?

As with most philosophical theories, I’m afraid I can offer no more than speculation here about the role that onism plays. I think it is definitely an interesting topic to think about further and it is somewhat comforting to know that others feel similarly. I’m curious to hear your thoughts and opinions on the topic, so please feel free to leave a comment!

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