1. There is a woman in Portugal who is trying to develop an equation that will calculate “quantity of longing”. I met her last summer. She told me that it is the national sport there. Their whole history is based on people leaving for sea voyages and not returning. Since then, everyone in Portugal misses someone, even if they are not quite sure who.
  1. “Actually, it is not exactly longing. The Portuguese word is somewhat different” she explained. The word has no accurate translation into other languages. “Saudade” they call it. The best description she could think of was: “Feeling the presence of nothingness”. In her view this is a more accurate feeling. Because when you long for someone you feel that something is missing in your life, but in “Saudade” you actually feel the nothingness itself.
  1. I find the semantics complex, but her equation is actually simple. She claims longing is mainly affected by geography. The farther away a person is the more the longing for him grow. I thought about it a bit, and then I told her that once I announced to my grandmother that I was going on a trip of five days up to North. Her immediate question was: “What are you looking for so far away?”But when I told her about going on this trip, spending a month in Spain and Portugal, she smiled and said “Spain is good. Spain is close by”.
  1. Because distance is apparently never only about geography. It is a much more personal concept, based on the countless experiences a person goes through. My grandmother spent several years of her life in South America. Since then, she loves the Spanish language and “Telenovelas” on the “Viva channel,” so that the whole Latin world seems closer to her than a forest near Kiryat Shmona. And perhaps that is also the reason why every time I go away on a trip, my parents call and tell me miscellaneous details about the place I am. They may say, “We just wanted you to know that there is a big festival now over there”; or “can you believe octopus is their national dish?”
  1. And maybe they just figured out a strange method to shorten the distance. So that with every little detail they insist on finding, they pull me back to them, forcing the continents to come closer. And since I understood that, I do the same. I try to find ways to bring back people who are far away. Listening to some song in the language that surrounds them, or read some random entry in Wikipedia related to that remote place. Trying to play with the variables in the equation, in order to reduce the longing, if only for a moment.
About the Author
Iddo Gefen served for three years as a reporter and an editor in the IDF magazine, and today works as a freelancer for advertising companies. He is currently working on his first book in Hebrew.