Tuesday, August 02, 2005

No Fear!

joH'a' ghaH wIj wov je wIj toDtaHghach. 'Iv DIchDaq jIH taHvIp? joH'a' ghaH the HoS vo' wIj yIn. vo' 'Iv DIchDaq jIH taH vIp?

The LORD is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

podcast version

Klingons aren't just bold - they're fearless. If you can say "they don't know the meaning of the word fear," about anyone, it really would be Klingons. It literally isn't in their dictionary. The closest you get is the dispositional suffix for verbs: "-vIp."

tlhIngan Hol (the Klingon language) has a system of suffixes to modify the meanings of words - and one set modify verbs to give a disposition: HoHlaH (able to kill), HoHqang (willing to kill), HoHvIp (afraid to kill). So I've added this suffix -vIp to the word for "continue," taH, giving "taHvIP," afraid to continue. (Note: the Hebrew word used in this Psalm, yirah, is the same word used in Psalm 23 where we read "I will fear no evil.") Later in this verse I cheat a little, using the suffix alone to stand in for the concept of "afraid." That's a stretch, but we do have some evidence that at times (at least as slang) the suffixes may be used as standalone words.

You should note that there is a strong taboo in Klingon to admit fear. The Klingon Dictionary notes that while it is grammatically correct to say "jIghoSvIp" or "maghoSvIp" (I am afraid to go, we are afraid to go), it is culturally taboo. Be careful what you say to a Klingon!

A strongly military society it makes sense that Klingons would resist admitting fear. Yet I think they would appreciate the of the import of this verse:

joH'a' ghaH wIj wov je wIj toDtaHghach. 'Iv DIchDaq jIH taHvIp?
The LORD is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?

In battle you need intelligence (light) and victory (salvation). Knowledge alone will not give you victory, nor will simple might make you able to have the right strategy. Banishing defeat - eliminating fear - is only possible when you have both "wov toDtaHghach je'," "light and salvation." I think the psalmist is reminding us this will happen only if we have the right ally: God.

Now, it is easy to think that the bravado of Klingons in keeping "fear" out of their vocabulary is mere bluster. Yet in verse after verse we discover that Scripture is reminding us again and again NOT to fear. When we hear Jesus say "Don't be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom." (Luke 12:32) or Moses when he says about Israel's enemies "You shall not fear them; for the LORD your God, he it is who fights for you." (Deuteronomy 3:22) we can see that we have an ally, indeed the only ally, who can help us cut fear out of our dictionary - forever!

As God says through Isaiah:

Don't you be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. Yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness. Isaiah 41:10

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