Friday, June 24, 2011


Many of you know that I spent a semester abroad in Niger. Furthermore, you may know that I picked up some Zarma. I really enjoyed learning it, as well as its bizarre grammatical structure. In fact, you might have heard some strange noises coming from my mouth and responded with a facial expression along the lines of, "Did you just hiccup in a very bizarre manner or were you speaking in tongues?"

A good word to know in many languages is "God." In this case, "Irkoy." While this seems like a large grammatical tangent, I swear it will tie back to "The Religious Case Against Belief" soon. The word "Irkoy" is the joining of the Zarma word for "we," "us," and "our" (iri), and the Zarma word for "owner," or "to go" Thus we have "Us owner," and "We go." I'm going to break this post up into those two definitions of "Irkoy." It will all come together quite nicely in the end, if all goes well.

"Us Owner": None of us like to think of ourselves as having an "owner," at least not in those terms. The connotation of that word sounds possessive and reminiscent of the era of slavery to our American ears. However, if we insert this concept into the circumstance of an artist and that which is created by the artist, it feels less uncomfortable. Typically, we consider the artist who spent days, upon months, upon years into his masterpiece the original owner- if only because she made an investment of time, material, and energy. Of course, works of art change hands- an idea parallel to our notions of free will. Despite our freedom, our creator has a lasting connection to us, in that she will always know exactly what she made. Further, we come from a part of our creator, much like Eve came from the rib of Adam, we come from the imagination of our creator. Thus, our creator will always be a part of us, we will always be a part of our creator. We are the culmination of ideas, dreams, hopes, and fantasmic wanderings of the consciousness.

"We Go": Going is something we humans do all the time. We go from a state of sleeping to a state of consciousness. We go from bleary-eyed to breakfast. We go from being stationary to being transitory. We go. Notice here, that I use only the form of the word "go" that indicates a change in state. Paul Tillich defines religion as the "state of being grasped by the ultimate concern." Here he is substituting the "ultimate concern," for a deity, in an effort to keep his definition from limiting religion to those institutions with many deities, or no deities at all. From where I stand now, maybe the "deity" or that which is divine, is "the state of being grasped," that place where we change states, that place where "we go" to being grasped.

Had "koy" been Zarma for "maker," and "make," you better believe I would have included a reference to Dr. Neville. Oh look- I managed it anyways. To bring this back to Carse's "The Religious Case Against Belief," we can allude to his writings concerning many different concepts of God, many different interpretations of God, and many interpretations of texts. While I don't think the Djerma people intended for their language to be exigeted, I don't think they would throw around too many objections.

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