Koinophobia: The Fear of Being Ordinary
When you look back over your life, or try to put it down on paper, you can see more of it now than ever before. And yet it seems somehow diminished. Humble. Almost quaint. So you begin scanning your life, looking for something interesting or beautiful. But all you see is ordinary people assembled in their tiny classrooms and workspaces, each of us moving around in little steps, like tokens on a game board.
From Greek koinos, "common, ordinary, stripped of specialness" + phobia, "fear".
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While you're in it, life seems epic.
Fiery, tenuous, and unpredictable.
But once you have some distance from it,
everything seems to shrink,
until it's almost out of focus.
When you look back over your life, or try to put it down on paper,
You can see more of it now than ever before.
And yet it seems somehow diminished. Humble. Almost quaint.
So you begin scanning your life, looking for something interesting or beautiful.
You see an ordinary house, with an ordinary yard, on an ordinary street.
It looks smaller than you remember. You once had wild dreams and obstacles and risks looming all around you, but now they look smaller too.
You remember giants and goddesses and villains,
But all you see is ordinary people assembled in their tiny classrooms and workspaces, each of us moving around in little steps, like tokens on a game board. No matter how many times you rolled the dice, it was always these little moves, here and there.
Do a little work, Take a little rest.
Make a little friend, Throw a little party.
Feel a little boredom, Have a little rebellion.
There are so many of these token moments, that were supposed to represent some other thing. You keep adding them all up, as if there was something you forgot to count, some stash of glory that fell off the back of a truck.
You may adore the life you have, for everything it is. You know it isn't groundbreaking; you wouldn't change a thing.
Maybe when you first started building the life you wanted, you left plenty of room for what might happen, and somehow lost track of what was happening.
Or maybe you were never 'in it' to begin with. Maybe you knew even then that this wasn't the world you expected. A world so low and common you tried to keep your distance, floating somewhere above it, where nobody else could look down on this life you built.
Nobody else but you.
THE DICTIONARY OF OBSCURE SORROWS
The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is a compendium of invented words written by John Koenig. Each original definition aims to fill a hole in the language-to give a name to emotions we all might experience but don't yet have a word for. Follow the project, give feedback, suggest an emotion you need a word for, or just tell me about your day.
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