Thursday, September 13, 2007

Konstruaĵo la perfekta besto

Is Esperanto a religion? It's certainly a facilitator. Just ask some people in Japan:

The birth and spread of the Omoto religion is due principally to the combined efforts of two charismatic figures, one an illiterate peasant woman named Nao Deguchi (1836-1918), and the other, a self-taught, eccentric genius, Onisaburo Deguchi (1871-1948)....

Onisaburo advocated the use of the Esperanto language as a means of uniting the world’s religions and the Omoto church achieved international recognition through the establishment of the Universal Love and Brotherhood Association.


The kind of Shinto (literally the "Way of the Kami") Onisaburo upheld was universal and all-embracing--a sharp contrast to State Shinto, the nationalistic official cult of Japan. His cosmic mentality made him one of the first persons to advocate the oneness of all good religions (bankyo dokon). Under Onisaburo's leadership, Omoto gradually transformed from a somewhat nationalistic insular religion to a cosmopolitan faith; it adopted Esperanto as an international language, inaugurated the Federation of World Religions in 1925 and promoted global interfaith activities with Dao Yuan of China, the Bahai faith of Iran, Cao Dai of Vietnam, the Weisse Fahne of Germany, the Universal White Brotherhood of Bulgaria and many others.

But we enter the Velveteen Rabbit world when Esperanto is used as a symbol for non-reality (if you follow this link, please see point 4). Here are portions of the thoughts of Andy Crouch on the subject:

"Andy,” [Dr. Richard Baer] said, “I’m concerned about these students. I have many of them in my classes. I’ve been teaching a seminar this semester with several Christian students enrolled. We have rollicking debates about human nature, the role of law, the meaning of technology. But the Christian students hardly say a thing. I wouldn’t even know they were there—except that they come up to me after class and furtively thank me. I’m trying to create an environment where Christians can participate in these debates—but they won’t say anything!”...

Perhaps Dr. Baer’s students have grown up speaking Esperanto.

If you haven’t heard of Esperanto, that’s part of the point. Though it is obscure, Esperanto is the most successful man-made language. The man, in this case, was Ledger Ludwik Zamenhof, who invented Esperanto in 1887 to provide a neutral means of communication around the world. He borrowed Latin roots and laid down strict rules for pronunciation that would make Esperanto easy to learn. Perhaps a few hundred thousand people use Esperanto as a second language today, mostly over the Internet.

But Esperanto has never really caught on. As English swept the world and Swahili expanded to cover much of Africa, Esperanto dwindled in popularity until it was largely the domain of linguists and, well, geeks like me....

The trouble with Esperanto, nearly everyone except die-hard Esperantists agrees, is that it’s just not a real language. Real languages are like sea-polished stones, worn and rubbed to a smooth beauty....At the same time, they are like a mature forest, with layers of meaning moldering under the new growth. (English teaches us that to love is to live, while the French learn that l’amour is like dying—la mort.) When we speak a language, we connect ourselves to a rich and irreplaceable past. That’s why, in spite of its utility, Esperanto hasn’t succeeded—like other modern projects from architecture to art, it has none of the hospitable resonance of history.

But what would happen if a group of people concluded that history was suspect and complexity was dangerous? What if they tried to borrow only the barest forms of architecture, music, and thought in the name of being accessible, or even relevant, to the widest possible audience? What if they boiled down their own deepest convictions to an easily memorized set of rules in the pursuit of transferable concepts? What if, that is, they embraced the methods of several generations’ worth of evangelical ministries and churches?

Their children, surrounded by fluent speakers of a natural language with all its contradictory rhythms and unresolved complexity, might well become self-conscious. They would greet one another in private with linguistic secret handshakes. They would have artificial-language weekend retreats and read artificial-language books. But the wider world would be a mystery to them, and they to it.

And if you're not aware that Christianese is a language, check this post from a self-described "friend of Stupid Church People":

We visited a Church this week. Its the Mennonite Church that I have told some of you about. Here is what I noticed:

I almost couldnt keep a straight face with the amount of Christianese being spoken. It was amusing to me. I know its irreverant but I nearly laughed my ass off.

But perhaps if you take two invented languages - Christianese and Footballese - you'll get enough of a vocabulary so that you'll be speaking English - with all of its richness.

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Anonymous said...

What exactly is "Konstruajho la perfekta besto" supposed to mean? Is that the name of the building? I could understand it if you had written "Konstruante la perfektan beston" - that is at least grammatically correct. Is that not what you meant?

Anonymous said...

I used an online translator, and as we well know, online translators are not perfect - or perfekta - or perfektan.