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Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

This past week, I’ve been thinking about a powerful interview I heard on November 29 on CBC Radio’s The Sunday Magazine with Piya Chattopadhyay. Her conversation with Philosophy Professor Carlos Alberto Sánchez seemed to perfectly encapsulate a lived experience during these past nine months, through the word “zozobra”: framed as “the oscillation between hope and hopelessness”. This resonated strongly, in how one moment I might find myself feeling very hopeful (e.g. hearing reports of progress in vaccine research trials, approvals and production); and then the next hour/day/moment, truth be told, feeling kind of hopeless (“Will this ever end?!?”). The ‘oscillation of hope’ (in Dr. Sánchez’s words) can be deeply disorienting as we cycle through these extremes and points in between.

In the seven-minute interview, Dr. Sánchez talks about our current state of uncertainty and disorientation though this shared experience of ‘oscillation of hope’. He notes that we can learn from Mexican philosophy (and specifically names the work of philosopher Emilio Uranga), in recognizing common suffering – and using this recognition to develop “bonds of love and common struggle”. Dr. Sánchez contests Western notions of radical individualism, and how this contributes to the sense of isolation that so many have been experiencing. The importance of community, relationships, connectedness, are meaningful and necessary. The interview is worth a listen! Check out this link in the text below, and scroll approx. half way down the page:

Interview Link: Word Processing: Zozobra
The various crises of our day have left many of us feeling anxious, disoriented and uncertain about the ground we stand on. Carlos Alberto Sanchez, professor of philosophy at San Jose State University, says Mexican philosophy has a concept to describe how we’re all feeling: “zozobra”. In the latest installment of our ongoing language segment Word Processing, he breaks down the meaning of “zozobra”, its Mexican roots and universal relevance, and how it can help us get through a turbulent time.

Now I am by no means a student of philosophy, but I can’t help feeling that philosophy has – and will continue to have – much to teach us in making sense of an experience that is so hard to make sense of. Finding hope and meaning are deeply human needs, and the voices of educators, scholars, activists and artists can offer pathways into hope and community.

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