Saudade in Aramaic, multiculturalism, and meditation

About a year ago I wrote about the pros and cons of multiculturalism (you can read that blog here), it mostly dealt with the professional difficulties I have in Spain with my US professional and academic qualifications. Today I would like to explore the concept of home for multicultural folks.

One of the issues many multiculturals face is that we live far from our native home. In my case, I work in the U.S., but my family and friends are still all in Spain. This makes for a difficult concept of what to call home.

These thoughts came to mind the other day catching up on Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation (if you are not already subscribed, I could not recommend it more, click here) and he was talking about Dr. Douglas-Klotz’s Aramaic translation of The Sermon on the Mount. Douglas-Klotz explains how:

Lawile can mean “mourners” (as translated from the Greek), but in Aramaic it also carries the sense of those who long deeply for something to occur, those troubled or in emotional turmoil, or those who are weak and in want from such longing. Netbayun can mean “comforted,” but also connotes being returned from wandering, united inside by love, feeling an inner continuity, or seeing the arrival of (literally, the face of) what one longs for.

Dr. Douglas-Klotz (Richard Rohr Daily Meditation Sat. July 24, 2021)

These words led me to the Portuguese and Galego concept of Saudade and the Galego concept of Morriña, which also convey a deep longing. You see, when I am in the US I miss Spain, but after a while of being in Spain, I miss my work in the US. There it is in simple words, not much that can be done about it, although Richard Rohr does recommend this beautiful exercise:

When in emotional turmoil—or unable to clearly feel any emotion—experiment in this fashion: breathe in while feeling the word lawile (lay-wee-ley) [longing]; breathe out while feeling the word netbayun (net-bah-yoon) [loving]. Embrace all of what you feel and allow all emotions to wash through as though you were standing under a gentle waterfall. Follow this flow back to its source and find there the spring from which all emotion arises. At this source, consider what emotion has meaning for the moment, what action or nonaction is important now.

Dr. Douglas-Klotz (Richard Rohr Daily Meditation Sat. July 24, 2021)

The pros and cons of multiculturalism

Moving from NYC to Boston 1988

We first moved to New York In 1977, I was 12. From there we moved to London in 1979, from there to college in Boston in 1983, and so on for back and forth between the US and Europe. As I recently wrote in my “Diversity Statement” for a job application:

I have had the privilege of growing up in multicultural and multiracial environments, cities, and schools: New York City, London, Paris, Madrid, Boston, etc., so since childhood I have been bathed in diversity: cultural, racial, religious, sexual, socioeconomic, etc. On top of that I have had the privilege of traveling widely.

So, while being multicultural is definitely an enriching experience, it does have its drawbacks: The first one is that you no longer “fit” into any particular “set” culture, you become a bit of an outsider whenever you are in an environment of population that is “born and bred” in a place.  The second and more insidious aspect is that you might no longer meet certain legal or bureaucratic requirements to say, work in a place.

This is what happened to me when I returned to Spain in 2018. My US degrees (Including a PhD) are not recognized in Spain to work as a teacher. Furthermore, to get all my paperwork approved and transferred and certified and triple stamped would have taken years. Besides the paperwork, there is a mentality issue. Teachers in Spain are generally not a respected, appreciated, and certainly not well remunerated part of the population. There are historical and social reasons for that, but I will leave them for another post.

Long story short: I have returned to work in the US as Assistant Professor of Spanish and Assistant Director of the Language Department at Saint Vincent de Paul, a major seminary in Boynton Beach Florida! This was not an easy decision, leaving everything behind for a job, but I could no longer live in a country that refused to acknowledge me professionally.