The Awesome Power of A New Word

Happiness and wellbeing flow out of meaning, but a kind of meaning that isn’t always easy to articulate. Meaning is fundamentally an experience of being, not something you can necessarily explain to somebody

Adyashanti on One You Feed Podcast Episode 285

Dear curious,

When you adopt a new word, you take ownership of new meaning and bring richness into your life. I’ve been pondering new vocabulary lately, as I attempt to push my way out of the interminable purgatory of being an intermediate Portuguese speaker.

Learning another language can be baffling and dispiriting because you can feel robbed of making meanings: you are obliged to make many, many mistakes, and to forego the luxury of fluent expression. What is more, people often assume that your language level is directly correlated with your intelligence, which is not great news when you are less than linguistically competent. It is humbling to search for words like a pigeon scrabbling for crumbs on the ground.

On the other hand though, there is the sense of achievement at picking up new turns of phrase, and then putting them to work. There is enormous pleasure in suddenly comprehending what you couldn’t before.

And then there are the gifts- ripe words that drop into your hands, the likes of which you do not have in your own language.

The gifts are concepts that don’t translate, relating to things that can only be understood via the realm of experience. In other words, the understanding doesn’t come from mapping one word onto another, but from having lived something or not. Sometimes these words give name to a recognisable sensation, which has been overlooked in your native tongue.

Just because something is not named in your culture, it doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened to you, and when you are able to name it, you are able to describe the experience differently. You can say ‘oh yes. I know what that was. It was ……. and somehow this is immensely satisfying. That is what a gift word is.

Photo by Alexandra on Unsplash

A new word was given to me recently, which is ‘agregara’: bringing disparate energies into one energetic vibration. It’s Portuguese, but not a common word, nor one which I can find in any dictionary.

Agregara came up in conversation, as we were discussing the sensation that you have at the end of a yoga class, where everyone has come in from different places, moods, states, and over the course of their time together, they have fallen into rhythm with one another. Agregara turns a bunch of individuals into one, harmonious, breathing entity. Ahhhhh.

Sidenote: I suspect ‘agregara’ may have been invented by one of the teachers at the place where I practice, or elsewise is something he picked up in a tucked away corner of Brazil, but whatever its origins, it has become part of the common parlance within the centre.

So, I extrapolate that ‘agregara’ is present when you see kids play a game involving a mixture of telepathy and intense storying. The game flourishes between them like a living creature. Another example might be when you witness a really fabulous concert and the gap between audience and performer is replaced with a back and forth crackle of lightening current.

I love the word ‘agregara’. I didn’t have a name for this exact sensation, but it expresses perfectly what I lack when I am in a funk of being misanthropic and lonely. Likewise, it’s what appears in abundance when I am present and connected with the people around me and they do the same with me. The creation of agregara doesn’t depend on being from the same background, the same point of view, the same age, the same status, the same taste or preference, it only depends on falling into resonance.

Not only that, but it seems to me that agregara is what you do when you welcome the co-existence of shadows, light, and the mundane, all within the same person or in a group. It’s the way to unify the paradoxical, to transform opposition to co-operation, bring attention to a single focus. It’s a pretty damn useful concept in these interesting times we live in.

And of course, there is the most famous Portuguese gift word:

If you live in Portugal, as I do, then people will tell you on a regular basis that a very important Portuguese word is ‘saudade’ and that it can’t be translated. Usually, they will go on to tell you that it is something like ‘I miss you’ but it’s not ‘I miss you’

Then this happens:

They search for a way to share the feeling….’It’s…..it’s’…..and then they pull a pained expression and look far into the distance, as if gazing out to sea searching for the ghosts of beloveds, foreign shores, times past, and youthful pursuits, while simultaneously revelling in the sweetness of having loved and lost..isn’t it wonderful to be so melancholic……’it’s saudade’….In they end they just shrug and go back to smoking or sipping their coffee.

Goddamn, I’m so deeply melancholic
Photo by Lucas Filipe on Unsplash

After 13 years, I reckon that I have an inkling of what they’re on about, and saudade names the feeling I have when I too, gaze into the distance, and think of my beloveds who are not here, but who nevertheless I am grateful for loving or having loved, or for the places I carry in my bones, even though I may never again see them again in real geographical life.

What I love about the word ‘saudade’, despite so many years of sitting patiently while people tell me that I will never understand it, because I am cold and English (I paraphrase)….what I love is the catch in people’s voices and the feeling you get from them when they say it and mean it. It’s gorgeous. That is better than a thousand explanations. And if someone says it to you then you feel super special.

My translation of saudade goes something like this: There’s a you/there shaped space in my heart, that longs to be full of you/there, and it may or may not ever get reunited with you/there , but I’m happy for it to exist, because that way you/there gets to be part of me always, and that feels good, even when it hurts a bit. Sigh.

Do you know how I know what saudade feels like? Agregara bitches. That’s why.

And what gift words have you learned?

Lots of love,

Alexis xxx

Thanks to  Tim Marshall on Unsplash for featured image.

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