All words and definitions found here were created by artist and writer John Koenig. He felt a calling to fill a hole in language, to give names to emotions we all may experience but do not have the words to express yet. Yes, these are made up words (as all once were) – but they are carefully crafted with proper etymology (word root meanings, prefixes, suffixes, etc).
Through these words and definitions I hope you are able to discover a piece of yourself, and find deeper understanding into the depths of your emotions.
(n) The ambiguous intensity of looking someone in the eye
Which can feel simultaneously invasive and vulnerable–their pupils glittering, bottomless and opaque–as if you were peering through a hole in the door of a house, able to tell that there’s someone standing there, but unable to tell if you’re looking in or looking out.
(n) The desire to care less about things.
To loosen your grip on your life, to stop glancing behind you every few steps, afraid that someone will snatch it from you before you reach the end zone—rather to hold your life loosely and playfully, like a volleyball, keeping it in the air, with only quick fleeting interventions, bouncing freely in the hands of trusted friends, always in play.
(n) nostalgia for a time you’ve never known
Imagine stepping through the frame into a sepia-tinted haze, where you could sit on the side of the road and watch the locals passing by. Who lived and died before any of us arrived here, who sleep in some of the same houses we do, who look up at the same moon, who breathe the same air, feel the same blood in their veins—and live in a completely different world.
(n) frustration with how long it takes to get to know someone
Spending the first few weeks chatting in their psychological entryway, with each subsequent conversation like entering a different anteroom, each a little closer to the center of the house—wishing instead that you could start there and work your way out, exchanging your deepest secrets first, before easing into casualness, until you’ve built up enough mystery over the years to ask them where they’re from, and what they do for a living.
(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’ll 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.
(n) A moment that seemed innocuous at the time but ended up marking a diversion into a new era of your life
Set in motion not by a series of jolting epiphanies but by tiny imperceptible differences between one ordinary day and the next, until entire years of your memory can be compressed into a handful of indelible images—which prevents you from rewinding the past, but allows you to move forward without endless buffering.
7. Yù Yī :
(n) The desire to see everything with fresh eyes
To feel things just as intensely as you did when you were younger—before expectations, before memory, before words.
(n) The feeling of being stuck on Earth
It’s hard not to look at the ground as you walk. To set your sights low, and keep the world spinning, and try to stay grounded wherever you are. But every so often you remember to look up, and imagine the possibilities. Dreaming of what’s out there. Before long, you find yourself grounded once again. Grounded in the sense of being homebound. Stuck on the planet Earth.
The hidden vulnerability of others
It’s the kind of basic human vulnerability that we’d all find familiar, but is still somehow surprising when we notice it in others. The way your own flaws and accomplishments are easy to see because you’ve lived them, but for the people you’re not close to, you’re only able to see the parts of them they choose to present.
(n) an image that inexplicably leaps back into your mind from the distant past
(n) A moment you experience for its own sake
A kind of melancholic trance in which you become completely absorbed in vivid sensory details-raindrops skittering down a window, tall trees leaning in the wind, clouds of cream swirling in your coffee.
(n) The sense that time keeps going faster
As a kid you run around so fast, the world around you seems to stand still. A summer vacation can stretch on for an eternity. With each birthday we circle back and cross the same point around the sun. We wish each other ‘many happy returns.’ But soon you feel the circle begin to tighten, and you realize it’s a spiral, and you’re already halfway through…
13. Catoptric Rristesse:
(n) the sadness that you’ll never really know what other people think of you, whether good, bad or if at all
That although we reflect on each other with the sharpness of a mirror, the true picture of how we’re coming off somehow reaches us softened and distorted, as if each mirror was preoccupied with twisting around, desperately trying to look itself in the eye.
The art of dwelling on the past that brings new meaning to the experience
There are ways of thinking about the past that aren’t just nostalgia or regret. A kind of questioning that enriches an experience after the fact. To dwell on the past is to allow fresh context to trickle in over the years, and fill out the picture; to keep the memory alive, and not just as a caricature of itself. So you can look fairly at a painful experience, and call it by its name.
15. Kenopsia: (n)
The eeriness of places left behind
The eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that’s usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet—a school hallway in the evening, an unlit office on a weekend, vacant fairgrounds—an emotional afterimage that makes it seem not just empty but hyper-empty, with a total population in the negative, who are so conspicuously absent they glow like neon signs.