Friday, October 28, 2011

cool linguistic discovery of the day

Last night I watched a (fantastic) film called No Man's Land and it's mostly in Serbo-Croatian. There are a lot of shared words between it and Romanian so as I was watching I'd catch words I'd understand, all ones with Slavic roots.

One of them was
bezna, which in Romanian means complete darkness, the kind where you can't see anything, pitch black, no light at all. DEX tells me that figuratively it means something like ignorance. But of course! And I heard the word in a context where there was clearly some underlying shared sense, so I looked it up and it turns out the word means meaningless.

Once again, but of course! We see that in words like
lucid. So the same kind of thing is happening not only in Latin, in languages rooted there, but also in Slavic-based languages.

I'm thinking of John 1:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world." (bolding mine)

So we see how our languages reflect this--that light represents something life-giving and darkness maybe a lack of that. Let's say the word here (Jesus) does what regular words do for us everyday: they reveal meaning. Jesus reveals God, comes down to earth as a man and we start to understand what this God is all about, Jesus as friend, as savior, defender of the poor, as the just one who will make all things right (this being very far from an exhaustive list). And life, the light of all mankind.

I wonder then if all our languages don't point to this reality: that meaning (perhaps by extension, our purpose) and life are bound in this Father of heavenly lights, that without him, there isn't any. (That reference comes from this baller verse: "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17) I wonder if maybe on some level we know this, intrinsically.

Well then, maybe it's just common sense, but that doesn't that bring us back to the question of where that common sense comes from? And what makes it true? And by extension the whole old argument about where our sense of right and wrong comes from? Of course that opens the doors to relative morality and a whole slew of questions. Good conversation--by the way, Tim Keller's book _The Reason For God_ is great if you're interested in that. So is Mere Christianity (C. S. Lewis).

Anyway, the point I'm getting to is that I think this sort of thing is in us already, this idea of the light being related to meaning and life. And if we recognize that, I wonder if it's not worth asking where it came from.

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