All you need is cafuné

Earlier today I mentioned that everyone has, or ought to have, a list of ten books they would rescue from their burning building.

I have already named two: Ronald Gross’ The Independent Scholar’s Handbook and Richard N. Bolles’ What Color Is Your Parachute?.

(See Hope for the Hopeless: Brave New World and Underdog University of this blog.)

A third book I cannot imagine living without is a psychology / philosophy book by Felice Leonardo Buscaglia, aka Leo Buscaglia, with the simple title: Love.

I love this warm and wonderful book and the way Buscaglia envelops the reader in his warm embrace through his quiet simple manner.

“…they didn’t know about Papa’s rule that before we left the table, we had to tell him something new we had learned that day.

We thought that this was really horrible – what a crazy thing to do!

While my sisters and I were washing our hands and fighting over the soap, I’d say: “Well, we’d better learn something.”

We’d dash to the encyclopedia and flip to something like “The population of Iran is…”

We’d mutter to ourselves “The population of Iran is…”

We’d sit down and after a dinner of great big dishes of spaghetti and mounds of veal so high you couldn’t even see across the table, Papa would sit back and take out his little black cigar and say, “Felice, what did you learn new today?”

And I’d drone “The population of Iran is…”

Nothing was insignificant to this man.

He’d turn to my mother and say, ” Rosa, did you know that?”

She’d reply, impressed, “No.”

We’d think “Gee, these people are crazy.”

But I’ll tell you a secret.

Even now going to bed at night, so exhausted as I often am, I still lie back and say to myself, “Felice, old boy, what did you learn new today?”.

And if I can’t think of anything, I’ve got to get a book and flip to something before I can get to sleep.

Maybe this is what learning is all about.”
Leo Buscaglia, Love

Today, I learned the Brazilian Portuguese word “cafuné”.

Cafuné is the closeness between two people, a gentle, undemanding affection, the sort of love that asks for nothing.

It may be the warm, safe, family feeling between a parent and a child or the love of grandparents for their grandchildren.

Perhaps it is the closeness between two people that may some day turn into love.

Between two lovers, it might contain the gentlest hint of a sexual promise, precisely capturing the tender longing of the early days of a couple’s time together.

Or it may be the relaxed fondness that remains when the fire of a passionate affair has burned low.

It could be the act of running someone’s fingers through somebody’s hair – possibly lulling them to sleep or possibly expressing a drowsy fellow-feeling.

Fazer cafuné em alguém means to show affection of exactly that sort.

It doesn’t apply only to humans.

You might be gently tickling the head of a much-loved dog or cat.

Or stroking the soft, silky hair of a horse’s ears.

Cafuné is a pleasant experience for both the giver and the receiver and demands nothing from either of them.

There is room for more cafuné in our lives.”
Andrew Taylor, The Greeks Had A Word for It: Words You Never Knew You Can’t Do Without

“We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness”
Dr. Albert Schweitzer

“Everything is filtered through me, so the greater I am, the more I have to give.

The greater knowledge I have, the more I’m going to have to give.

The greater understanding I have, the greater is my abilty to teach others and to make myself the most fantastic, the most beautiful, the most wonderous, the most tender human being in the world.” Leo Buscaglia, Love

“What we think is less than what we know.

What we know is less than what we love.

What we love is so much less that what there is.

And to this precise extent, we are much less than what we are.”
R.D. Laing, The Politics of Experience

“We need not be afraid to touch, to feel, to show emotion.

The easiest thing in the world to be is what you are, what you feel.”
Leo Buscaglia, Love

Reach out and feel the cafuné.


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