Another day, another week, another year. We've heard this song before. Our lives are built of the same few notes, repeated over and over. It’s not a grand symphony, full of surprises. It’s a song sung in canon, that simply carries on, until the tune gets stuck in your head. But then the verse changes over, and for the life of you, you can’t remember how it's supposed to go.
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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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From Greek apololeka, "losing." (Thanks to reader Christos Frantzolas)
TRANSCRIPT: "Your life is a highlight reel: a gradual search for a handful of memories. We like to think that every moment has potential, that there’s something transcendent hidden all around, that if you’d only stop to seize the day, you could hold onto it and carry it with you. But the truth is, most of life is forgotten instantly, almost as it’s happening. Chances are that even a day like today will slip through your fingers and dissolve into oblivion, washed clean by the tides.
Such is the rhythm of ordinary time: the featureless stretches between one memory and the next, the thousand acts of maintenance you do every day. You keep your body going, hauling it back and forth from one place to the next. You breathe in and out. Things fall apart, you clean up the mess. And it all washes away in the night, to be built up again in the morning. You throw the week against the wall to see what sticks, hoping you will remember something that happened today, anything.
Most of our lives are spent in the hinterlands, the empty stretches we fly over to get to the good parts. And you wonder how you could spend so much time just pushing back against the current, trying to keep your small boat afloat, watching for a glimmer on the horizon, waiting for those moments when you can finally say, eureka! “I’ve found it!”
But it’s all happening—it’s all real—whether you’ll remember it or not. So you might as well say ol?ka!—"I've lost it!"—as if to mark the passage of yet another opportunity, flushed down the hourglass. A final toast to the endless forgotten days, whose humble labor has given you everything you have, at least for the moment.
As the song says: long live the high tide and long live the low, but above all, long live the difference."