Archive | January 5, 2011

The New Year Blues: Saudade

The New Year Blues

By Hwaa Irfan

The snowstorms that led up to the Christian festive season, was a blow for many. Increasingly there has been a tendency to escape the sorrows that raise their ugly heads to only remind one of the life that one has led in the past year. By escape, it has been a desire to escape from the country in which one lives, so that one does not have to face the disappointments, the disappointments that are reflected in the increased bout of drinking, and forms of abuse that take place between Christmas and the New Year.

Like mourning the loss of a loved one, there is no room for grief in certain western societies thus locking one into one’s grief. This pervasive feeling is not discussed, explored or solved, because without bearing witness to it, one would not know that it exists – but it does!

These melancholic feelings may have been stronger this year after looking back on a year that may have questioned everything one has been told to be true. The platform that one has considered to be the means from which one advances into the world, the career, the income bracket – all compromised by forces that one in real terms cannot comprehend. The large cars that express the ego, with all the things that it can do at a flick of a switch, the world at a flick of switch seems to be switching off without ones finger to dictate on/off.

If one is lucky, one will have fellow mates to share the same melancholia, but in that sharing, besides not being alone with those same lies, one is becoming further, and further engrossed in the loss of what seemed real. The mourning seems real, because what one had was real – well what else is there!

When there is no room to explore or express the negative feelings that one is experiencing, if not is not too careful, one can be pulled down further by those feelings, especially if one had no idea that there is an alternative to what one thought to be real. In some societies, these negative emotions are normal, and are but a phase taking one from one end to a new beginning. There are even words to describe this feeling, and ways of processing those feeling, but words cannot express the inexpressible!

The Culture of Saudade

“Saudade” is a Portuguese word which frankly speaking like the negative emotions that one cannot shake off, is difficult to explain. It is an emotional state, the feeling of irrevocable loss, and a yearning for what has been lost. It is for something that cannot exist in the present or the future, a “nostalgic yearning for an impossible object.” It is a word that arose out of the Portuguese maritime culture. Saudade has full expression in the Brazilian culture of today three centuries of Portuguese colonialism, and became an aesthetic movement of Portugal after WWII. If one thinks of the Palestinian in the Diaspora, hoping, praying, and singing about a homeland that they may never see again – this is  “Saudade.” The difference with saudade, is that there is a deeper acknowledgement of the sad truth!

And Marânus, looking at the bright mist,

Sweet dream of the sea, standing there,

Meditated: whiter goes the human dream,

When smoothed away from us, already dreamed?

And we become sadder and more alone,

Every dream that finishes, in the world.

And, every ethereal cloud that is shaped,

It becomes saltier the deep sea.” – Teixeira de Pascoaes

The lack of presence of what one was longed for in one’s life creates an inner emptiness that cannot be replaced for as long as one holds onto the longing. The concept of saudade has been alive in Brazilian culture since the 16th century for various reasons. It has become a source of inspiration for many Brazilian musical forms and poetry. There is a whole genre of music in Brazil around this notion of saudade has exemplified by the Brazilian musician, Chico Buarque de Hollanda on his song Pedaço de mim, in the lyrics. “saudade é arrumar o quarto do filho que já morreu.” or “saudade is to tidy the bedroom of a son who has already died.” In fact the meaning has become so prolific amongst those who feel that they are in some sort of exile that it has transmigrated through art forms across cultures.

When one grows up on the tradition of a music that has been slowly commercialized, and then hears the feeling of saudade has expressed through the Latin American genre of Bossa Nova by a Sufi drummer at a Naseer Shamma concert in the middle of Cairo, for like the emotion, the music haunts.

The expression of saudade in Brazilian culture today, takes place as a celebration on January  30th.  The Day of Saudade is the day when one many commemorate the absence of presence… sounds strange, but if one was to ponder on the idea for a while, it makes perfect sense. In this way one gives room without being censored to what is missing in one’s live in a way that makes the feeling apparent along with the pain, which one might not always understand. By allocating time for this, one can make tangible what may be a vague feeling, and then move on with the rest on one’s life.

What Next!

In our longing, we are only creating more suffering as with any form of stagnation, life evaporates while we are under the illusion that we are living it. How does one know that one is part of the great conundrum, because it is affecting your life! All these global crises are nature’s call for change, a change for something healthier, and more in tune with the natural rhythm of life. The limited horizons that we had set for ourselves are no more, because they were limited. It taught us how to be happy with what is, yet we were never really happy. It told us for so long how to be slaves under the illusion that we were free. We might find that the stories we told ourselves and each other can no longer be told, for those stories only constructed fears that walled us in. Just look how paranoid we have become of everything as soon as a derogatory word is spread.

If you have been waiting to exhale for so long, watch out, for now it is time to breathe, and as we expand our lungs with new breath, so we must expand our lives to more wholesome, and more balancing ways. Life is a school from which to learn from, and when we stop learning we stop living. By living the reference is not to the schoolbook information that we have been told for so long translates as knowledge, but to live our lives with meaning and purpose. Look back, and remember if you ever really wanted to be what you are now, if not, look out for the wind of change in your life, and get ready for new thoughts, eyes, opportunities, and learning what it really means to share joy and sadness – in other words get ready to breathe before the wind blows you away!

I have the sense that life is so much more than what I see and touch. The emotions of joy, loss, and longing engulf and almost overcome me.

“Then God’s Spirit reminds me: There is a time coming when it will all be united and fulfilled: past and future. God will bring it all together. ALL of our loved ones, all those beautiful sunsets and sunrises, feeling the glorious breeze on a spring day as the cherry blossoms move in the wind, smelling the apple orchards in the fall and new mown grass in the summer, roses and lilacs, seeing and hearing a fire burning in a fireplace, feeling its warmth, the smell of guava, fresh pineapple, a rain storm coming on a hot day… the sound of waves and waterfalls and the heavens thundering a mighty symphony of sound mingling with a full symphony orchestra and choir singing the Hallelujah Chorus and we will be there experiencing a completeness never imagined.

“There is coming a time when you and I will no longer experience SAUDADES. Only joy, fulfillment, wholeness as the Son of God sits on His throne and we, men, women, children and all of nature, create a NEW SONG of delight in His presence that fills the heavens and all the universe!” – Voni Pottle


Feldman, L. “Aesthetics of Saudade.”

Pottle, V. “Voni in Brasil.”

Related Topics:

Happiness Doesn’t Grow on Trees!

Living Beyond the Mundane

The House of Three Rooms

Prosperity and Abundance Now!

Love and Time

Hard Times: Means Change With a Big Bang

Powered By the Sun

Powered By the Sun

By Hwaa Irfan

The Qur’an tells us:

{He hath constrained the night and the day and the sun and the moon to be of service unto you…} (Al-Yusuf 12: 13)

While we seek to use up other natural resources to the detriment of the ecosystems that sustain us, nowhere is the service of the sun more evident than in the case of solar energy. In fact, in the Middle East in particular, where hot days are many, the sun presents the ideal sustainable energy source of the future. For those who argue that the sun is dying with no knowledge of its future, if they could predict the death of the sun, then it would logically follow that life on earth as we know it would come to an end, for all creation, all ecosystems of the earth depends on the sun.

The manner in which the sun provides energy to the earth and the non-polluting nature of that energy are key factors in providing sustainable energy. In fact, it is the source energy supply of the fossil fuels that we have been burning up since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution to the detriment of the health of the earth, and all life.

In July 2010, a record-breaking pilotless plane broke the world record for the longest time in the air (two weeks) was totally solar powered. Ratified by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the 50kg plane stayed airborne for 14 days, 22 minutes, and seconds. Built by defense technology company Qinetiq, ignoring the purpose for which the plane was built, the solar powered panels of the plane had lithium batteries, which stored the energy allowing for the plane to remain airborne at night! This technology should be redirected to civilian use, powering homes, industries and transport!

The amount of solar energy from the sun’s radiation on just one kilometer square is about 4,000 megawatts – enough to light a small town. In the report “Solar Lighting for the Base of the Pyramid” by Lighting Africa sponsored by the World Bank, and International Finance Corporation is broaching the idea of solar energy for Africa. Unfortunately there are cultural overtones when one states that 140 million African people living without regular or reliable access to electricity.

When one uses the day and the nights as our Creator intended, there is no need to upset our circadian rhythm by not functioning according to the rhythms of nature. When the sun sets, the pineal gland shifts gear and produces its primary hormone melatonin in larger quantities until it peaks from 2 – 3.00a.m in the morning.  The circadian rhythm sets the biological clocks, turns on the immune system and inhibits tumor promoters like estrogen. Studies indicate that even the most modest exposure to extended light stresses our bodies, accelerates aging and debilitates the immune and nervous systems. So when attempts are being made to change the lifestyle of a people in line with the globalized trend of pushing back the hours, one should not accept an unsustainable way of doing things, using sustainable means. However, when the intention is as follows one prays that it will be taken with such intent. Programming Manager for Lighting Africa Arthur Itotia told SciDev:

“By converting from kerosene to clean energy millions of consumers can improve their health, reduce their spending on expensive fuels and, ultimately, benefit from better illumination and more productive time in their homes, schools and businesses.”

As Lighting Africa helps to build the market for off-grid lighting across sub-Saharan Africa, it becomes apparent that the focus is in terms of business, as intrinsic to the initiative is consumer education, and improving access to finance. If the intent was pure, the focus would be about building a solar powered grid for homes, places of learning and industry. The marketing side would then take care of itself, as who would not want to have a less costly energy supply, and one that can be put in the hands of the consumer. Alas, the aim is to use Africa as one of the world’s largest markets for portable solar lighting, instead of helping Africa to provide its own supply of sustainable energy.

Meanwhile, coal dependent South Africa is setting up a solar power station with the aim to supply an annual output of 5 gigawatts of electricity i.e. 1/10th of its energy requirements. When apartheid finally ended only 40% of households had electricity compared to the 83% who are now connected. Looking for foreign as well as domestic investment, the plan for the solar park is being designed by Fluor, a U.S. engineering and construction company to be located where it hardly rains in the poorest province of the Northern Cape.

Shell Petroleum predicted as far back as 1995 that by 2050 that solar power would become our main source of electricity. The World Solar Program from 1996 – 2000 has been trying to coordinate efforts such as the Arab Solar Energy Programs of Morocco, and Oman via the Clean Energy Fund, promoting the unfortunate role of banks in financing renewable energy sources.

The American Whitehouse began converting years ago when it was more expensive. Former president Jimmy Carter spent $30,000 in the 1970s on a solar water heating system for the West Wing. Former George W. Bush the elder, installed a solar powered maintenance system, which also heated the water for the pool. Now President Barack Obama will install solar panels on the roof of the living quarters with the aim of heating water, and supplying some electricity

A Solar Powered Home

Not everyone has the opportunity to solar power their homes, because of the issue of ownership, but when certain developed countries are increasingly experiencing the problem of power cuts do to demand outweighing supply, then those who have the option should consider solar powering one’s homes as a viable direction to go in. Imagine, the long term prospect of not having to pay exorbitant electricity/gas bills. It also means with the unreliability of the job market, that one has less bill to worry about.

In Yorkshire, England, A Shade Greener, which fits solar panels to homes, has had a push with government backing to help people solarize their homes for little cost. As such the business has expanded enabling them to increase their workforce, which in times of an economic meltdown, is beneficial all round.  By helping those who can make that choice, frees up the grid for those who cannot.

In Australia, where it is not uncommon to off the grid, there is a connection system for those whose homes are powered by solar energy without the need for batteries. If one has excess energy, the system allows for energy to flow into the grid, and if you are lacking or on need of more in energy, one is able to draw on the grid. With growing eco-communities with lots of experience, sharing the ups, downs and lessons helps the newcomer to link up with alternative ways of living. For instance:

–        To make sure one is not being short-changed when buying solar panels, there should be two types of warranty:  a) Power output (lasts 20 – 30 years), and a Material Warranty (lasts 2 – 10 years)

–        Look out for get out clauses

–        Position of the solar panels if one does not have a roof that slants at an angle of 30°

–        Obstacles that would prevent the solar panels from getting sunlight

–        If one is connecting to a grid, make sure it is not the electricity company who installs it

–        Make sure that are using energy efficient appliances: fridge, light bulbs, draught proofing, pipes leak proofed etc

–        Have the meter reconfigured if going on the grid to make sure the charge is correct for what energy one is supplying, and what energy one is receiving

–        Have an inverter installed because a) convert electricity supplied from the solar panels to alternating current for power points, b) Changes the lowest voltage from solar panels to higher voltage needed by one’s appliances, c) protect one’s home from shutting down when supply is cut from the grid due to power outage/cut, d) export electricity to the grid when the solar panels are providing more electricity than one is using

Thinking about it!?


Capiello, D. “Solar Panels on White House: Obama to Install Solar Panels in 2011.”

“Growing Home Solar Power Market to Create 300 New Yorkshire Jobs.”

Okoth, D. “Africa Poised for Solar Lighting Boom.”

Smith, L. “Solar-powered Plane Breaks World Record.”

Smith, D. “South Africa Unveils Plans for ‘World’s Biggest’ Solar Power Plant.”

Solar Power Warranties – How to Make Sure Yours is Worth More Than the Paper It Is Written On.”

Related Topics:

Providing Your Own Energy Supply

Behind the Food Price Crisis!

Anti-Austerity and Living on the Edge

Preparing for Life!

Finding a Global Balance