Monday, May 13, 2013


What is Mamihlapinatapai?

According to

(Noun) Two people looking at each other each hoping the other will do what both desire but neither is willing to do (from Tierra del Fuego). 


The word Mamihlapinatapai (sometimes spelled mamihlapinatapei) is derived from the Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego, listed in The Guinness Book of World Records as the "most succinct word", and is considered[who?] one of the hardest words to translate. It refers to "a look shared by two people, each wishing that the other will offer something that they both desire but are unwilling to suggest or offer themselves."[1] A slightly different interpretation of the meaning also exists: "It is that look across the table when two people are sharing an unspoken but private moment. When each knows the other understands and is in agreement with what is being expressed. An expressive and meaningful silence."[2] It is also cited in books and articles on game theory associated with the volunteer's dilemma.[3][4]

And of course the unspoken definition can be seen in this video...

Sometimes it can bring two people together.

Sometimes it is just an acknowledgement of what was and the two people go their separate ways, like in the video above.

Sometimes it is just a look and the moment passes as quickly as a spark extinguished.

I used to act on those looks. I used to jump into the void, trusting the other person to dive in with me and see where it took us. Now that leap terrifies me. It confounds me and leaves me paralyzed on the edge. I no longer have the courage to act because I know I don't have the strength to pick myself up and dust myself off if the other person lets me fall alone. If you find my courage, please tell me where to find it, I may need it again someday.  Until then, forgive me if I avoid making eye contact with you.


Heather said...

It comes piece by piece... One glance at a time... moment by moment... with each gradual time interval getting closer... unfortunately though, it is different for all... and when the timing is right, the stars will align and you too will again be able to make eye contact again...

Until then... allow your eyes to be tempted upward, here and there until the starry night arrives... but do not give up, keep pushing through the heat of the day..

Jonathan said...

Dammit... now I'm repeating the word over and over in my head :)