20 December 2011

A Blue Christmas

The colors that most people readily associate with Christmas are red and green. For a certain percentage of the population these days (including yours truly) the color blue seems more appropriate as in "I'm feeling blue". I have heard it said by some that the feeling is triggered by the diminished hours of sunlight during the Winter Solstice but perhaps it also has to do with disappointment coming from the unfulfilled expectations of prior Christmases. I don't know for sure except that thanks to a new word that I learned I have a better way of expressing the feeling.

I am reading a book by a famous Turkish author named Orhan Pamuk who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006. The book is called "Istanbul: Memories and the City ". The author talks about the Turkish word "hüzün" that is pronounced "hoo-JOON" with the letter "J" sounding a bit like the "su" in the word "sure". It is generally translated into English as meaning "melancholy" or "longing" or "nostalgia". The meaning of "hüzün" is related to the description of the "black bile" or "black passion" of the ancient Greeks and can be caused by any number of things.

According to Orhan Pamuk "hüzün" is a special melancholy that binds the Istanbul Turkish community together in a collective feeling of nostalgia for the glory days of the past and the anguish over the increasing decay of the present state of affairs but nevertheless with a hopeful outlook for the future. The word "hüzün" originated in Arabic as a longing for God and it denotes a spiritual loss or separation. It is not the feeling of a single individual but rather it is the common emotion of millions of individuals who are suffering the same dark mood.

I think that we may be hearing more about this word "hüzün" in the coming year as the tensions mount over the presidential elections both in the United States and in Mexico. In both countries there seems to be a growing gulf between the the people with sufficient means to live comfortably and enjoy life and those who struggle for their daily bread or as they say here "el pan de cada día". I don't know where one would draw the line between the two. I have read recently that the average family in the United States needs an income of at least seventy-five thousand dollars per year to meet the criteria of "living comfortably". In Mexico it is no doubt somewhat below that amount but not by as much as you might think. Then there are the modestly rich and I say more power to them. It is their energy, intelligence, and vision that makes a good economy possible. They are no doubt the role model that many people aspire to emulate. I have no quarrel with that. In these uncertain times I think that all three groups can share the feeling of "hüzün".

There is one more group of people who I don't believe can even understand the melancholy of the other three. The word that I choose to describe them is "hubris". This word means "extreme haughtiness, pride, or arrogance indicative of a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one's own competence or capabilities and a complete lack of humility". It seems to me that when banks, corporations, and other institutions are labeled "too big to fail" they are tempting fate to the extent that their demise is inevitable and that they may have already begun their descent. Like the Titanic of one hundred years ago, all it will take is one big chunk of floating ice to bring them down. Being an optimist at heart I must have faith that they will not drag us all down with them like third class passengers in steerage. Thank God we have the Congress to save us, eh?

1 comment:

Gloria said...

Merry Christmas Bob and Gina and a very Happy New Year. Be happy!:)

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.