n. 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—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you will 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.
Sometimes I “people watch” when I’m waiting. In lines at the supermarket or inside the plastic cages built at bus stops. I imagine their life in flashes. A memory of a college party, an explosive breakup, the birth of their daughter, sledding down a slope on a picnic table, and the resulted pain of broken bones. I like to imagine their sorrows and their happiness. Their ups and downs.
It exercises my empathy and broadens my perspective. It reminds me that we are all carrying the weight of the world; the baggage of our past. The world I live in is woven by my unique experiences. Every world is different. Every world is important.