What is the word for… everything we could ever hope to experience?

… tenderly running one’s fingers through someone’s hair? There is a word for it, I swear. It’s Cafuné  and it’s from the Brazilian Portuguese.

In the eagerness to become the most spoken language in the world, English may have forgotten to create and design words for subtler, more gentler facets of humanity. But some languages remembered. They have words for things that defy us completely and leave us speechless. Love the irony.

These languages have surpassed the so-called limiting boundaries of speech and verbal expression, and effectively managed to finally afford language a good rep after years of bad press. And recently, I have discovered that there are words that actually help us; bumbling and verbally handicapped as we are, define some of those insanely beautiful facets that define who we really are,  and what our lives amount to.

The Japanese, for example, have a word, or rather, a concept called Wabi-Sabi, which refers to beauty in imperfection. It reflects on an intuitive way of living that emphasizes finding beauty in imperfection, and accepting the natural cycle of growth and decay.

Dear God, this is truth. We have ALL experienced this, no? We see the beauty in grubby, unwashed faces of beggar children. We see the beauty in the generosity of our lunatic Indian brethren, regardless of their terrible civic sense. We find beauty in loss, in pain, in effort, in failure. Beauty is everywhere, and as human beings we possess the instinct to discern it. And the Japanese have a word for it. Awkwardnesses, instances, fleeting nuances. There are words for them all. Indeed.

As a writer and reader and like so many others, I experience the limitations of the English language. Its clumsy inarticulacies, its archaic restrictedness, its annoying specificities. But today, I can appreciate that it too has it’s own beauty. Wabi-Sabi.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. sarah says:

    I just came across your blog randomly yesterday and I am in awe of everything you write. You seem to have the knack of being able to pick up and articulate these feelings that just tumble around inside all of us- without expression or release. again i don’t think english will be able to capture what your writing seems to evoke in its readers.

    there is an urdu/hindi word thats a favourite of mine ‘kasak’ – it was when I heard this that I realised the many feelings which english did not allow me to express..

    i am curious where you discovered these words from. please do continue to share more..


    1. mentalexotica says:

      How serendipitous that you come here, and at this time. I have been delving and diving into so much Pakistani literature of recent, that I am almost certain of a past life lived there. And now here you are.

      I was told yesterday that I tend to take complex ideas and simplify them. I am sure it was meant well, but I began to wonder if it that was an act of immaturity. Almost as though I desiccated some really profound, convoluted concepts and whittled them down to bit-sized baby morsels. Is it all bare bones? I am not sure if it’s always okay to do that. But I suppose if it helps convey meaning to someone, that is all that matters.

      I came across these words/ terms in various articles written by linguistic experts, lexicographers, and linguaphiles. You can take a look at this http://www.altalang.com/beyond-words/
      Will you tell me what kasak means?

      I am reading a book now, an Iranian Love Story. The protagonist is called Sara. I believe there are no coincidences.


  2. sarah says:

    🙂 maybe you are right and there are no coincidences..i have never been to india, but I have always felt a such a strange yet strong longing for it- a sense of belonging, almost like I have memories of it..

    yesterday when I first came across your blog, what struck me most was the photograph of Bombay (I made it my wallpaper!), the sky, the sky line; looking at that picture I could smell the air, I could hear the city, sense it..thats why I continued to read.

    I can understand why it would bother you to think your writing reduced complex ideas to ‘morsels’ , like abridging them- it would be to strip ideas of their depth..their glory n sanctity… When I was in school I sometimes hated the process of studying poetry, because it felt so vulgar and insensitive, the way every single word would be dissected and every verse broken down; certain poems like certain ideas are just meant to be felt, it’s the sensation they create inside you, the emotions they stir, the memories they evoke- that is the only way to experience them..

    but from what I read I don’t think you’re doing that..i found your writing, like poetry, it was emotive..

    ‘kasak’ could most closely be described as ; painful yet sweet longing .. but I don’t think its true meaning can really transcend into English in anyway..it can only be understood in a context, and (to me) only in a very sub-continental cultural context..

    There is a line from a very famous (and v. beautiful) poem by Faiz ‘Raqeeb Se’, perhaps it will help convey the meaning a little more accurately

    “Tujh pe bhi barsa hai us baam se mehtab ka noor
    Jis mei beeti hui raatun ki kasak baqi hai”

    (I am assuming you understand urdu/hindi- please do correct me if I’m wrong n i’ll send a translation 🙂


    1. mentalexotica says:

      What you say about India brings to mind the words of a friend who travelled to Pakistan a few years ago. She, like you, has always felt a pull and well, a saudade for the place and was overjoyed when she was finally able to visit. She said then that, India and Pakistan had no business being two separate countries. I have never been there myself but I have good sense of what she was saying, and I gather you will have similar sentiments should you ever make it here. Inshallah.

      p.s. I think I got the gist of the verses, but perhaps not completely. A translation would be great.


  3. Yan Zhitui says:

    “Everything in the world is beautiful, but Man only recognizes beauty if he sees it either seldom or from afar. Listen, today we are gods! Our blue shadows are enormous! We move in a gigantic, joyful world!” – Vladimir Nabokov, ‘Gods’ (1923)


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