Language, if you think about it, is a magical thing. The ability to communicate a meaning, a feeling, a piece of your inner most thoughts to others. And yet, language can be limiting, too. There's so much that goes on inside us that we can't always find the words to express.
I'm a self-proclaimed lover of words (a logophile, if you will), so you can think of this as an ode to some of my favorite words. Their meanings help me understand my world, and put a name to things that previously were lost at the edges of my vocabulary.
Here are just some of my favorite words from around the world, in no particular order. If you have a word to add to this list, leave it in the comments below!
1 - Meraki
Meraki is a Greek word meaning to put your heart and soul into what you do. One of the ways this concept is embodied in Greek culture is in the cooking and sharing meals, but Meraki goes beyond putting love into one’s cooking. This word can apply to anything you do, and it serves as a poignant reminder to stay present and give your all to every task you take on.
#2 - Kintsukuroi
Kintsukuroi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold or silver lacquer. Instead of trying to hide the damage, it is highlighted, and the piece is considered more beautiful for having been broken. As Christy Berttett put it, “Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated… a kind of physical expression of the spirit of Mushin. Mushin is often literally translated as “no mind” but carries connotations of fully existing within the moment, of non-attachment, of equanimity amid changing conditions. The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject.”
Kintsukuroi is also a beautiful representation of the next word on this list:
#3 - Wabi-Sabi
Wabi-Sabi is another Japanese word, which can be thought of as an aesthetic, or as a way of seeing the world as a whole. Wabi-Sabi celebrates imperfections, asymmetry, and impermanence. It’s about finding beauty within the flaws, and believing things to be more beautiful with age and ware. You can see this concept in Japanese pottery, which rarely tries to be perfect or symmetrical, and in the way Japanese people treat damaged or old objects, with honor and appreciation, and believing them to be more beautiful for the flaws.
#4 - Ubuntu
Ubuntu is a South African word often translated as “I am because we are.” The idea ubuntu expresses is that of warmth, openness, and shared humanity. It is the belief that we are defined by our compassion and kindness towards others, and that all of us are connected as part of a shared human family. Personally, this word embodies for me an acceptance that our culture sorely needs, and having it in my notebook serves as a reminder to live this concept in my own life.
#5 - Mudita
Most of us have probably heard the German word Schadenfreude (which means to take pleasure in the misfortune of others). Mudita, another African word, is exactly the opposite. Meaning: to delight in the good fortune of others, or to have vicarious joy. Mudita replaces jealousy or competition with the mindset that there is enough success and goodness for all. That when one person does well it is reason to celebrate, not lament. I can’t hear this word without thinking of our current social media culture, and how easy it is to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others, or feeling jealous or defeated when we see others thriving. In this regard, we could all benefit from a more mudita mindset.
Do you have a favorite word that didn’t make this list? Leave it in the comments below!
Which word on this list is your favorite?
Do you have a word to add to this list that I missed?
Leave your comments or suggestions below, or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org