Friday, November 23, 2007

'IH - Beautiful!

'IH - Beautiful!

'IH Daq elevation, the Quch vo' the Hoch tera'
Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth Ps 48.2
(click for podcast)

What does it mean, to be "beautiful?" Webster tells us it means "Elegant in form, fair,having the form that pleases the eye. It expresses more than handsome." "Beauty" is how we describe something that is deeply attractive.

Here in Psalm 48, the Psalmist rejoices in God's presence among his people - looking at Mt. Zion, and particularly the city Jerusalem, as beautiful with the almighty's presence. This can sound nationalistic and parochial if we think of it as simply a geographic location or national capital - but this is far more than just that. This recalls the term for Scriptural meaning that looks forward to God's triumph that I mentioned recently, "anagogical." As one commentary notes, this Psalm "sees the city AS IT WILL BE when 'all the nations flow to it' (Is. 2:2:ff) - for it is certainly not yet the joy of all the earth." (Kidner)

Such joy is indeed God's aim and intention for all people, and when that happens, it will indeed be beautiful.

Today we're looking at our first letter of the tlhIngan Hol alphabet, the letter that looks like an apostrophe, and our word is 'IH (spelled ' I H) - beautiful.

This letter is pronounced as a glottal stop - a brief catch. You'll see that in Klingon there are NO words that begin with a vowel - this letter is always placed in front of the vowel, as well as in other places within a word. All tlhIngan Hol words that begin with this letter are always followed by a vowel

'IH can mean "appropriate" or "good" as well as attractive - for example:
Du'IHchoHmoH mIvvam
This helmet suits you.

Literally You-it-be-beautiful-change-causes helmet-this-one, that is, this helmet causes you to change to be beautiful/handsome.

In Hebrew, the word here is yapheh, from a word meaning "to be bright" - think perhaps "to catch the eye" as things that are beautiful can.

We need to attend to beauty, in nature and in art - for God truly does use beauty to catch our attention - to draw us to himself.

No less an authority that Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes reminds us of this:

"There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion," said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. "It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers."

We have much to hope from the flowers, from beauty as we discover it, because it points us beyond the day to day, merely practical world. Beauty is this pure benefit, this joy that God sets before us to capture our attention, to draw us to him. In fact some speak of this as one of the proofs of the existence of God, reasoning from the existence and perception of beauty in the universe (what is called, the aesthetical argument).

'IH Daq elevation, the Quch vo' the Hoch tera'
Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth Ps 48.2
(click for podcast)

As I write this people in my nation have just celebrated "thanksgiving" - a day that we pause to reflect on the blessings (whether we call them that) that we enjoy. Of all those blessing I think our experience of beauty is among the most precious. And this grace of God is extended to all, as Jesus says

For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. (MT 5:45)

Rejoice! 'IH - beauty is one of the most vital signposts in this universe - a reminder of how deeply God loves us!

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