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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Saudades: An Explanation of Sorts


I felt it again the other day.  I'm not sure what tied all the ends together to create the rope, I just know what the strands were.  One was a conversation with my dear friend Mrs. Garriss, so full of encouragement and concern.  Another was a 15 minute block which I spent flipping through pictures of a place I once was and people who still mean so much to me.  A strand formed when I heard a song later in the day that reminded me of the God that made a world where we see pictures of Him all around us.  And another joined the bundle when I texted a friend who got me thinking about the beauty of relationships in the gospel.  All that vague mish-mash created a thick rope which tied itself snugly (not quite to the point of asphyxiation) around my inner most self.  And the worst part of all is that no English word exists to express this feeling!  Thankfully, I know enough Portuguese to compensate for these linguistic inadequacies.  The word is "saudades."

I was first introduced to the word "saudades" when I was studying Portuguese before my first trip to Brazil.  It was probably mid-winter 2006 (the summer before the seven-week trip) when I stared at a page in a learning guide discussing the unique points of the Portuguese language.  Saudades.  (Pronounced sah-oo-DAH-jeez to rhyme with the senseless phrase "cow dog cheese" in case that helps anybody...)  Brazilians are proud of this word because (as I said) it has no exact translation into English.  For everything that developing countries feel is important to borrow from Western civilization, maintaining a unique identity in the midst of that modernization is pretty important.  Needless to say, while I was in Brazil my friends took great delight in trying to explain this word to me, as if it were an ancient Brazilian hymn that hadn’t been translated into any other language.  It's a deep word, but this explanation is a hybrid of what they gave me and what I have come to finally understand as its full-bodied meaning.  My language book said that "saudades" is the strong feeling you get when you consider the places of your childhood or your lost youth.  My friends built on that by saying that it has to do with something you long for and can’t replace.  They apply it mostly to the people they love and are far from.  In recent years, I've expanded the definition for my own purposes and in the process I think I've finally come across the experience that my friends were trying to communicate to me.  Saudades is a many-faceted word that expresses less of an emotion and more of experience.  It is the nature of Brazilians to live intensely.  They don’t know what “halfway” means so their love is passionate and expressive.  Their hate is greatly to be avoided.  For that reason, saudades a word of poetry and when a Brazilian says “Tenho muito saudades de voce,” (I have much saudades for you) It is not to be taken lightly....
The next three posts are portraits of Saudades.  They aren’t an explanation so much as they are an attempt to help my readers find parallels within their own experiences.  Since saudades is so complex, each account shows it in a different light with different emphases.  It is more like a friend that gives different perspectives on an event than it is a quantifiable feeling so try not to pinpoint one definition.  Just enjoy it.  

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