Sunday, May 26, 2013

Hiraeth

Every once in awhile I'll run into a new word that will stick with me for a while. This word, hiraeth, is Welsh and represents one of those innumerable words that fall into broad category one might call 'unenglishable.'



Essentially the word is homesickness tinged with nostalgia, a wistful ache for something that wasn't ever actually experienced. There's a kind of tragic tone to the word as it often describes the feeling Welsh people feel for a homeland that was absorbed a long, long time ago into England.

Not so coincidentally, I consider myself Welsh in background. I'm a lot of things actually, Irish, Swedish, Scottish but, somehow my parent's calculation that I was at least 40% Welsh always resonated with me. Now, mind you, I never made the slightest effort to actually learn anything about my supposed homeland, allowing it to remain some hazy realm filled with scraps of hills and valleys, red dragons and an almost comically opaque language. Welsh was a homeland of the mind, an imagined, less-than-real place yearned for like a sweet dream half-forgotten.

I have that reaction to a great many things I realize, an attraction towards idealised, impossible pasts. If I'm being honest I think that at least partly explains my attraction to Star Trek. Star Trek while ostensibly about the future is really about the past. I grew up with the original series and then later The Next Generation. The dream of exploring the unknown really stuck with me and I realize now informs a great many of my subsequent decisions. I wanted to see new things, to experience modes of life, and to let all that I encountered proceed uninterrupted, unspoiled.

Also similar to my relationship with Wales, I never really invested all that much effort into learning the wider world of Star Trek's mythology. I don't go in for all of the fan-non, or obscure facets of the various incarnations of the world. It took me until this year to actually revisit the series and watch them through completely. I almost preferred to have them remain the way they were, vague and incomplete.


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