December 27, 2006

What is “Saudade” Worthy?

Posted in philosophy, psychology at 3:22 am by Jerry

I’ve discovered the word “Saudade.” Here’s some quick descriptions of it:

a Portuguese word for a feeling of longing for something that one is fond of, which is gone, but might return in a distant future. It often carries a fatalist tone and a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might really never return.

In his book In Portugal of 1912, A.F.G Bell writes:
“The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness.”

Saudade is different from nostalgia (the English word, that is). In nostalgia, one has a mixed happy and sad feeling, a memory of happiness but a sadness for its impossible return and sole existence in the past. Saudade is like nostalgia but with the hope that what is being longed for might return, even if that return is unlikely or so distant in the future to be almost of no consequence to the present. One might make a strong analogy with nostalgia as a feeling one has for a loved one who has died and saudade as a feeling one has for a loved one who has disappeared or is simply currently absent. Nostalgia is located in the past and is somewhat conformist while saudade is very present, anguishing, anxious and extends into the future.

[…] saudade does not involve tediousness. Rather, the feeling of saudade accentuates itself: the more one thinks about the loved person or object, the more one feels saudade. The feeling can even be creative, as one strives to fill in what is missing with something else or to recover it altogether.


Here’s where my exploration of this word has taken me:

  • Is there anything in my life (or this world) saudade-worthy?
  • If so, should it be made into a nostalgic feeling instead?
  • Have I simply stumbled upon the struggle between idealism and realism, the search for a realistic “Ought”?
  • Am I re-evaluating where HOPE and FATE have a place in my life? (I’ve thought for a long time now – Where HOPE exists, FATE made it so. But it still doesn’t make my hope right.)
  • Where should I direct my hope?

December 22, 2006

Identity Cris(TM)is

Posted in culture, family, psychology, scripture, theology at 10:40 pm by Jerry

I was reading through the biblical “Christmas Story” and ended up wondering what Jesus was told about himself while growing up. Did people say to him, “This is who you are, and this is what you’ll do – a Zoroastrian astronomical prophecy has reveal it to us Kings to be so.” Or, “This is who you are, and this is what you’ll do – an angel told me so.”

Did anybody tell the little boy Jesus that he was the “Messiah”? If so, was it tough for little Jesus to know that he is the Messiah? And, even if they didn’t tell him, I wonder how Jesus managed the path that was laid out for him. I wonder when he recognized himself for who he truly is – apart from being told who he is.

I suppose, to some extent, he felt misrepresented. After all, misrepresentation is a consistent part of the human condition. Which makes me wonder how he managed people’s misunderstandings about him. Did he try to set them straight about who he is? Did he bear his soul to strangers so that they’d understand who he really was? Did he tell his close family and friends everything about himself? What he thought about? felt about?

Probably not. Which makes me wonder how well people understood him, and how much people tried (still trying?) to make him into something he wasn’t.

December 9, 2006

Fundamentally Fooled!

Posted in culture, film, science, scripture, theology at 9:08 am by Jerry

Becky found this video (below) and showed it to me. For the first little while, I thought the narrator was serious. I was fooled. But then I thought, “Wow, I’ve seen enough crap in this world to not even recognize the sarcasm here.”

December 2, 2006

Orwell Originality

Posted in church, culture, non-fiction, politics, scripture at 7:26 am by Jerry

I just finished three of the four George Orwell essays in my latest purchase from the Penguin Books “Great Ideas” collection. The book is entitled – Why I Write. The last essay I just read (my favorite) is called – Politics and the English Language. It’s an incredible essay. I highly recommend it. Orwell challenges anyone’s use of non-fiction, including his own. Here’s some samples from this essay:

[…] worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. (106)

By using stale metaphors, similes and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself. (112)

In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions, and not a ‘party line’. Orthodoxy, of whatever colour, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. (113-114)

I must confess, I immediately thought of people quoting scripture when I read the quotes above. But Orwell’s not just talking about church politics here. He says, “All issues are political issues”. This explains the classic fiction he wrote – Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm. Both are must reads. They’ve helped me re-interpret many of my church experiences even though the contents of either books, as far as I can remember, didn’t mention religion or church.

Imagine sitting next to Orwell listening to a speaker after reading this:

The appropriate noises are coming out of his larnyx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favourable to political conformity.

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible.

[…] political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. (114-115)

My obsession to articulate my thoughts and feelings properly just got worse after reading this essay.

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms… (116)

I’ve been bumping into the topic of sincerity alot lately.

And finally, some guidelines I can use to improve my blogging!

What is above all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way about. (118)

I think the following rules will cover most cases:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous. (119)