Astrud Gilberto, João Donato and I were coming back from a recording studio in New York when we walked down a street past a gypsy sitting in a window overlooking the sidewalk and decided to consult her. Donato was the first to sit with her. Taking his hand, she said, "I'm going to read your past." And Donato, with his lost air and wild eyes, replied, "No, gypsy. I already know the past. Tell me the future." Disconcerted, the gypsy turned to us and confided, "He's crazy..."
Of course. Only madness can be that lucid. In one shot, Donato had discarded the past. How many, to exorcize the past, have had to fall back on psychoanalysis or the writing of autobiographies.

Not long before he died, Vinícius de Moraes was in a bar - Barbas - being interviewed by a young, somewhat "relaxed" journalist who, between drags on a marijuana cigarette, asked, "Poet, are you afraid of death?" And Vinícius, indifferent to the general unease the question had provoked, replied serenely, "No, little daughter, I'm nostalgic of life…"

Concepts such as past, nostalgia, "saudade" bring unending reflections. For example, what had the poet wanted to say with "nostalgic of life"-feeling saudade of life? I believe he wasn't referring to "his whole lifetime", but to life as a whole. I agree that all that has happened throughout one's lifetime has served as an apprenticeship, has added something, has been worthwhile. But not everything has been gratifying. In this case, for me, to feel saudade of something or someone is to long exactly for the way they remain in my memory. And in this sense, once again, the word saudade represents an enriching contribution of our language. Because, in my understanding, saudade can even be sad, but never melancholic like its English counterpart, nostalgia.

This word nostalgia, although it invokes emotions, always leaves me with a taste of something incomplete, unfinished, something that doesn't fit in as it did in other times. Like those songs, films or old loves that, for however much we appreciated them, do not hold up well on reexamination.

This is why (instead of how) I have saudades of Vinícius and of the golden age of Bossa Nova. But it is nostalgia that hits me when I remember Brazil of the sixties - what it could have become and didn't. And last, no matter how fond are my memories of adolescence and youth, I would never accept any deal that would force me to go back to that period, unless I could take with me all my baggage of experience accumulated right up to this very moment. I can even feel saudade of that which I have been, but never regret I what I am no longer.

It's common for school teachers to request research from their students, inciting them to go out, tape recorder in hand, interviewing, above all, artists and intellectuals on diverse subjects. Recently, one of these groups invaded my atelier to interview me, as might be expected, about Bossa Nova, Brazilian Popular Music and so forth. On this occasion, a young girl with enormous brown eyes asked: "Carlos, what was it like back in your time?" Caught by surprise, I replied something at the moment, like, "First, I need to know what is my time." It would have been useless to play "hip"--the most I could get out of it was to perhaps have been seen as a "groovy" older man. But for whatever clever comment I might have made, I couldn't really give those enormous brown eyes an answer I myself didn't have. To begin with, not only my time, but the concept of time itself also asked for reflection.

Later, thinking about the subject, philosopher Henri Bergson came to mind as one who, in addition to affirming that time is relative, also discovered that time is duration. Again I remembered, more than once, poet Vinícius de Moraes who appears to agree with this when he recognizes that love "… be not immortal, for it is flame, but that it be infinite as long as it lasts". Marcel Proust (who had been a student of Bergson) thought that the future is nothing more than the past projected forward. How should I, then, think of or calculate my time? As mechanical time, countable in hours, minutes, seconds? Or time as it is perceived by my senses? In countable time, my past contains considerable baggage. Should I, in view of that, think of my time as the past? I don't know. In more dynamic terms, it would be better if it were the present, with its renewing, day-to-day activity. But the present lasts such a short time, is so quickly over, vertiginously so. When we look, it's gone. And the past has passed. What is left, then? As a perspective, only the future. So that's it. I now have an answer for when I again meet up with the girl with big brown eyes: my time is the future. So, until then.

Carlos Lyra

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