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.
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.” http://www.albaglobal.com/article-print-111.html
Pottle, V. “Voni in Brasil.” http://manualoflife.com/voni/2009/10/28/saudade/