Words to Describe Funky Emotions: Occhiolism

No, this doesn’t have anything to do with the occult. Occhiolism is a fun word I learned this week, originally coined by Writer-Artist John Koenig in The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. The basis of Koenig’s project was to create words that explain obscure emotions and feelings (that explains why it isn’t recognized by spellcheck). So, what is occhiolism?

Occhiolism – n. The awareness of the smallness of your perspective, by which you couldn’t possibly draw any meaningful conclusions at all, about the world or the past or the complexities of culture, because although your life is an epic and unrepeatable anecdote, it still only has a sample size of one, and may end up being the control for a much wilder experiment happening in the next room.

That’s a long sentence! Let’s break it down. In a shorter sentence, occhiolism defines us as non-omniscient and unable to make any significant/all-inclusive conclusions based on the limitedness of our perspective.

As a creator, this term seems fairly familiar – it’s hard to make works that are applicable to every reader and viewer. As an observer of the arts, this term seems pretty visible. It can be seen when comparing the works and stories of different artists and authors. For example, while F. Scott Fitzgerald explored different story lines, his stories always come down to a longing for a previous love, no matter how insightful his intentions were. This difference in our views seems to come from the circumstances we grew up in and the recurring afflictions that affect us as we age, making each of our own perspectives, no matter how limited, important.

The other half of this description describes the unknowningness of the universe. It is impossible to understand and know every aspect of it – which is scary in itself, but also somewhat comforting. Do we really want to know everything?

Have you heard of this term before? Regardless of your answer to the first question, have you ever felt this way?


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