As many of you know, the Japanese author Haruki Murakami is one of my absolute favorites. In 2009, he traveled to Israel to accept the Jerusalem prize for literature, an award given to writers whose work deals with themes of human freedom, society, politics, and government. He was advised not to go because of the violent fighting that was occurring in Gaza at the time. He ignored that advice and gave an acceptance speech in which he said that the following quote would forever be engraved in his mind: “Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg.” Although Murakami claimed not to be making a direct political speech that day, he did go on to draw metaphorical comparisons between human beings as eggs, and the systems of government that we create as walls. He believes that his one and only reason for writing is to “keep a light trained on The System in order to prevent it from tangling our souls in its web and demeaning them.” In short, the driving force behind his work is to champion human individuality and personal dignity. There is much talk of walls these days and I certainly have no desire to enter into that fray. I will say that I agree with Murakami in that the political structures we put in place to protect human rights sometimes end up being their greatest threat. The constant vigilance and demand for accountability that can come from the artistic world often seems to be one of the few things that has the power to neutralize that threat, even if only because it raises awareness.
It’s going to be impossible for you to read this post without a correct pronunciation of the name of the drink and the word that I’m writing about. So here we go: saudade is pronounced sow-dah-day. It’s a Portuguese word with no English equivalent that captures the often indescribable feeling of yearning for someone or something so intensely that the absence we feel actually becomes a presence. This may be a person or circumstances that we’ll never experience again, or it may be someone or something that is very much a part of our lives. Saudade differs from the deep sadness we feel when we experience profound loss, or nostalgia for a time or place to which we can never really return. There are many words in the English language that capture sadness, and even nostalgia, that enable us to articulate those emotions rather eloquently, but there are none that are quite the same as saudade.
When I was a teenager I had lots of albums that I listened to endlessly on the stereo that I had in my room. I considered myself to be quite the audiophile back then and was always looking for ways to improve how my records sounded. Since I am a self-professed gadget girl, I’d buy a new stylus for the turntable or better speakers and I’d swear that the difference was amazing. My friends would go along and tell me “yes, yes it sounds so good,” but I know deep down they thought I was wacky. It never mattered to me though. I was on a quest for perfect sound and I was determined to find it. As technology evolved, I was always the first to give something new a try. I quickly learned