Monday, December 22, 2014

Showing Abstract Words

He will feed His flock like a shepherd...He will gather lambs in His arms....

     My siblings and I were talking about language.  My brother mentioned some Star Trek episode where the universal language interpreter machine (a machine designed to quickly learn a new language within a few minutes of listening to it) was unable to make sense of a new language.  It was able to come up with words, but the arrangement of words didn't mean anything to the crew.
     In the end, they found out that every abstract word (failure, anger, friendship) was described by a historical reference.  Essentially, the only way to understand this new language was to first know their history. 
     We could do this, too.  For example, instead of saying "Let's be friends" maybe we would say "David and Jonathan."  Or instead of saying "defeat" maybe we would say "the people of Ai at the second battle with the Israelites."
     The more I thought about it, the more I thought of how we DO do this.  We make a lot of references in our language that don't make literal sense or that would not make sense if you didn't understand the story of where that "saying" came from.
     [But exploring that train of thought belongs in another post.  I wanted to talk about what I thought about AFTER I thought that through.]
     My brother went from that into a comparison of how that was similar to parables...which led me to a pretty cool idea:

Jesus liked to show instead of tell.

     In other words, he could have just said "God cares about you," but instead He told a story about a Shepherd who left 99 good sheep in the fold and went out to find the one who was lost.

    And maybe our abstract words are not as important as the stories behind them after all.

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