Wagamama Alchemy

Driving today, I was daydreaming about a common phenomena we all have been through, then I came up with my own name for the phenomena: “Wagamama Alchemy”.  But before I explain the term, let me ramble a little bit about the words in the phrase.


Some words/phrases are just more succinct in other languages — and that is why we borrowed them into English. For example, imagine if we didn’t borrow these words:

  • bon appétit [French] — enjoy your meal !
  • faux pas [French] — an embarrassing blunder
  • non sequitur [Latin] — something that is not logically consistent with what came before
  • quid pro quo [Latin] — a favor in return for a favor given
  • Zeitgeist [German] – spirit of a historical period
  • Blitzkrieg [German] – a dedicated fast and ferocious attack
  • chutzpah [Yiddish] – audacious, gutsy nerve
  • kibitz [Yiddish] – unwanted advice in a competition
  • kvetch [Yiddish] – to habitually gripe
  • Juggernaut [Hindi] – an immense, unstable thing or force

Other borrowed words, and we have lots of them, just have a better feel in English than their equivalent single word in English. That is why we have many words in English. See my evolution of English diagram shows the various major inputs to English. Some of these inputs have continued having the exact same meaning as the English word, and others have drifted into having different nuances. Here are some examples:

  • guru [Hindi] – teacher
  • sensei [Japanese] – teacher
  • to loot [Hindi] – to steal
  • thug [Hindi] – thief
  • typhoon [Hindi] – hurricane
  • Schnapps [German] – hard liquor
  • Berserk [Norwegian] – violent
  • ghoul [Arabic] – monster
  • sofa [Arabic] – couch

OK, you get the point. Well, “wagamama” is a word I wished we’d import from Japanese. It simply means “selfish”, but you’ve got to admit, or is it just me, “wagamama” sounds a lot more selfish than “selfish”.


OK, moving on. We all know that Alchemy is “Alchemy” has a sordid etymology:

from Greek: Khemia – “land of black earth” [Egypt] where alchemy was a practiced and/or from to pour.
–>to Arabic: al-kimiya
–>to Latin: alkimia
–>to Old French: alchimie
–>to English: alchemy

Alchemy is a complicated philosophical/religious movement and historically meant to purify, mature and perfect certain objects — with philosophical goals of perfecting the human body and soul, and practical goal (among many) of making panaceas to cure any disease, making an elixir of immortality or changing lesser substances into gold. It is this last goal that is the common meaning nowadays. But in English we also use it to mean, “a process that transforms something in a mysterious or impressive way.”  This is the one I am referring to in the phrase.

Wagamama Alchemy

We are all selfish — this brutish reality is often difficult for us to see behind both our evolved social deceptions and our self-deceptions. But should such connivery lead us to despair.  I say, “No!”.  For indeed part of us does not want to be selfish at times, and maybe, just maybe, with a little magic, a little alchemy, people can combine their selfishness in creative, unexpected ways, flavored the broth with our true giving (even if minuscule), to make a relationship (EN) which resonates into something that transcends two simply combined wagamama individuals and instead yields a new pair of magical oneness — cooperative, synergistic wagamama alchemy.  Such an act is never complete but must be a daily practice.



Filed under Philosophy & Religion

3 responses to “Wagamama Alchemy

  1. I like your proposal of wagamama alchemy. In Western culture “selfish” is pejorative, a highly religious or moral value-laden term. Letting go of these charged labels or relabeling them—even humorously like with wagamama— may free us to better create and make magic.

  2. creatively done piece! points are well-made.

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