Hiraeth

Words convey meanings and some words in addition to conveying meaning impart feelings. One of my favorite words is "Hiraeth". It's an old Welsh word for which there is no direct translation in English. 

Hiraeth (n) is a feeling of being homesick for a home that you can't return to, or never existed.

It's a desire, a longing for a past, a nostalgia and is closely related to the Portuguese word, Saudade. There's actually a music genre dedicated to this feeling. In Portugal this music genre is Fado (or "fate").

This music has a Mediterranean sound; it reminds me of traditional Greek music. Have a listen:

Having grown up without much of a stable family context, this feeling for a home, or a place in which I can belong has always been intense and close to me. It's an intense longing where I can be in this world and where everything is okay and at peace.

Too often, however, thinking that longs for a past, a "golden-age" to which we must return, is a dangerous idea. It's dangerous because never did such a time of a "golden age" exist. It's a powerful idea often used by politicians to mold our thinking and action in the present under the spell of a perfect time and place. It is a manipulation so that we literally think "back-words" rather than the much harder work of growing into a future in which our greatest ideals (justice, peace, social harmony etc.) can be realized, or brought into reality.

Out of fear for the uncertain future, we can easily come under the spell of cultural, economic and political leaders who reify and fetishize an "idea" that falsely dissolves social antagonism and gives us a passive remedy that only reproduces our world as it is. We thus cannot grow into a better future.

This is why for me it's crucial to not get caught up into a nostalgia for the past, or even a place that I long for that will give me rest.  Don't get me wrong, I am homesick for a place where I can be and beloved and love.

But, in the end, this "thinking backwards" is dangerous thinking. That's why I spend my life trying to create communities in which people can form bonds and work together to improve our world. It's not a romantic idea to desire to form communities: in a neoliberal epoch where everyone is obsessed with themselves, it's really hard to build trust among people. People must be willing to forgive each others' weaknesses in order to continue working for a better future together. In this sense, each and every action we do with people everyday can determine a path to a better future or else remain stuck in the dangerous ideology of imagining a better "past".

Let's not fall into the ideological trap of letting the "golden age" of the past undermine us in the present so we can use our energies and imaginations to create a better more just world for all people.