| David Gane

Imagine others complexly

On this Thanksgiving weekend, I stumbled across an idea from John Green on the vlogbrothers YouTube channel, which was then reiterated by his brother, Hank Green:

Imagine others complexly.

The notion is about not reducing people to preconceived assumption or stereotypes and to understand them as a unique individual.

Also, it also reminds us that every single other human being around has is as complex and individual as we believe we are.

In The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, a "compendium of invented words written by John Koenig", he has even given this notion a word:

Sonder (n): The realization that each passerby has a life as vivid and complex as your own.

John Green's words even have their own Wikipedia page which also reminds us not only are people complex but they are also human beings. Often we raise people up or push people down based on their surface features (looks, money, power, fame) when they are as strong and wonderful and flawed as each of us.

When Ang and I write, I always try and find the best in many of our characters. I don't give some of them a free pass, but even with our more dangerous characters, I try never to judge them too hard. I worry that sometimes this will make them weaker, yet other times, I think this makes them more scary because they aren't far from any of us.

Of course, it is not easy to imagine others complexly but I think Hank Green sums it up best when he says:

It's really hard but whenever I do it, I feel better. And I am better.

With all the craziness going on lately, I think I'm going to spend time contemplating this way of thinking[1].

Have a good weekend and stay safe.


  1. Updated: I remembered Steven Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, in which he discusses about In Habit 5: "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." He talks about empathic listening, in which you listen with intention to understand another person's frame of reference. I think this is a similar notion. ↩︎

Tags: Reflections

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