Sunday, November 6, 2011

an addendum

to the recent post about bezna and light and meaning. This, from a novel that takes place in Congo (The Poisonwood Bible):

"Nommo is the force that makes things live as what they are: man or tree or animal. Nommo means word."

Now I don't know much about the Kikongo language, only what I've learned from this book, but here we are again.

Once more from 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 the paragraph above the quote from the book, it talks about various words with the stem -ntu, which means something like being. Actually, I'll just quote it for clarity:

"Muntu is the Congolese word for man. Or people. But it means more than that. Here in the Congo I am pleased to announce there is no special difference between living people, dead people, children not yet born, and gods--these are all muntu. So says Nelson. All other things are kintu: animals, stones, bottles. A place or a time is hintu, and a quality of being is kuntu: beautiful, hideous, or lame, for example. All these things have in common the stem word ntu. 'All that is being here, ntu,' says Nelson with a strug as if this is not so difficult to understand. And it would be simple, except that 'being here' is not the same as 'existing.' He explains the difference this way: the principles of ntu are asleep, until they are touched by nommo. Nommo is the force that makes things live as what they are: man or tree or animal. Nommo means word. The rabbit has the life it has--not a rat life or a mongoose life--because it is named rabbit, mvundla. A child is not alive, claims Nelson, until it is named."

I should should say clearly that I'm not trying to make a theology out of all this. Not trying to fit it into something else, make a sort of New Age anything. But specifically that part tying the word and being together, that part of that language having nothing to do with the writer's philosophies and beliefs--and then, without the word nothing was made that has been made.

I'm just thinking out loud here, following the rabbit trail, but I wonder what significance names really have. Of Abram being renamed Abraham, father of many nations. Simon becoming Cephas--Peter, meaning Rock.

Just thoughts.

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