Commusings: Sonder by Jeff Krasno

May 21, 2022

Or, listen on Apple Podcasts // Spotify


Dear Commune Community,

Here are a couple of existential questions for you: 

Are we all separate individuals having a solipsistic experience of life? Or are we all yoked by the shared phenomenon of subjectivity? Or both? 

You could look through a microscope at the individual cells in your hand. But leave the laboratory and would your hand appear to be anything but a complete entity? Witness the vast space between dots of ink through a microscope, but hold the newspaper in front of your face and there is nothing but a complete image of a person of interest.

You can zoom in. You can zoom out. All you will find, as Alan Watts memorably uttered, is “fleas upon fleas upon fleas.”

This week’s missive explores relativity theory within the context of human transience. It may be a bit maudlin in parts, but I have been exploring the Japanese aesthetic concept of wabi-sabi – the delightful sadness that characterizes impermanence.

Always here, until not, at [email protected] and playing along on IG @jeffkrasno.

In love, include me,
Jeff

• • •

Sonder

Sonder — noun. The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.

 

I climb the short step ladder and board the pintsize prop plane from the airstrip. I’ve got no luggage to tow. Walking down the center aisle is always a bit like tramping the catwalk. Eyes darting and diverting, the gallery conducts its assessment. It’s mostly oldsters on this flight. They can be quite judgy. Expression focused, shoulders back, hips forward, I stride confidently toward my seat and fold my frame into 13A. 

The stewardess hands me a cup of water and a square paper napkin. I take a swig. I instinctively reach for my felt tip and begin to dab at the serviette. Doing my best Georges Seurat, I fashion a slightly cock-eyed heart from a hundred ink points. 

I stare longingly out the window at my three daughters who are waving feverishly at me from the tarmac — simultaneously weeping and smiling. I flatten the napkin flush to the window. 

I reach down, untie my sneakers and put them under the seat in front of me. My arm stretches up and I twist the knob that is venting cool air on me clockwise to the off position. I pull at the strap from behind me and snap the buckle into place. I snatch an apple from my backpack that rests idly on the empty seat to my right. The palm of my left-hand presses flat against the warm glass of the oval window, partially obstructing the sight line to my girls.

Down, up, forward, back, right, left. 
Now. Now. Now. Now. Now. Now. 
This is all there is. 

I eye the elderly woman stationed in the window seat of the row across the aisle — her gaze affixed to the horizon. There is one young couple in the row in front of her, white-knuckled, their hands tightly clutched. Craning their necks a bit, they, too, peer out toward the setting sun. Our respective view of things is determined by our seat assignment. But, regardless of aisle or window, we all feel like we’re in the middle. 

I swivel the apple in my hand like a baseball pitcher looking for the right grip. I consider biting it. What is the center point of an apple’s surface area, I wonder?  

I look back at the old lady, the young lovers, the sundry assortment of aged itinerants and I am blanketed by a profound sonder. An eerie silence pervades the cabin akin to the atmosphere backstage after the final curtain call. Dramatis personae remove their worldly make-up, equally disappointed and relieved. 

Finally, the engine revs. The propeller spins, the blades blurring. The plane lurches forward, accelerating down the runway and shakily lifting off. My water, jostled, spills on the napkin, muddling my pointillism, individual dots bleeding, spilling into one another. 

I press my face to the window, my nose porcine. Rising, I see them still: Phoebe, Lolli, Micah. Higher. Now just my daughters. Higher. Now twigs. Higher. Now dots among the other evening mourners. Higher. A red stream of traffic pulses along the city’s vascular system. Arteries going, veins coming. Higher. Little boxes on the hilltops. Even higher. Objects give way to shadow and light — save for nature’s most grandiose majesty. 

Snow glistens atop an imposing mountain feeding a most vivacious river feeding the ocean, low and vast, feeding the clouds that now envelope me, feeding the snow that sparkles atop the mountain. 

I marvel at the water and the purposelessness of its course. I chuckle out loud. This thought reminds me of Phoebe’s incessant pre-adolescent questioning. 

“Why are we here, daddy?” she would inquire, wide-eyed, innocent. 

My nonchalant expression intimated a custody of the answer. But I mercilessly would make her wait. And, finally, gruffly growl, “Walk on!” And she would. 

We’re moving faster through the thinning air. In time’s sweet dilation, I drift into an emotional chiaroscuro. With a delightful wistfulness, I remember all the rides down the hill and into town, the dance classes, the college essays, the coffee dates, the soccer games, the bedtime stories, the lunch-making, the dishes, the dishes, the dishes. 

Nostalgia means our pain.

If this craft could one-eighty and throttle to 186,000 miles per second, I’d hijack it. But it can barely muster 186 miles per hour. So, in my inescapable transience, I exhale deep and long and press the silver button that reclines my seat. 

Mountain. River. Ocean. Clouds. 

I’m walking on. Good-bye.

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