Thursday, November 29, 2012
I watched a very interesting documentary recently. It featured an American man who went into Brazil in 1977 as a missionary with the hopes of converting an indigenous tribe, the Piraha. His goal was to learn their language well enough that he could translate the New Testament into their language so they could receive the Gospel. Over the course of 25 years he learned their unique language, became a linguist by degree and lost his faith in Christianity. The American, Daniel Everett, has challenged the prevailing view of expert linguists about how and why human beings acquire language based on his research of the Pirahan people.
I had no idea linguistics could be so thrilling! Even more interesting is the transformation of this man over the course of a few decades and where he is now both professionally and spiritually. I find any conversion extremely interesting, especially if very strong beliefs were present before the conversion happened - even if that conversion is one that takes a person from belief in God to atheism. I admire people who are fully engaged to the point that they come to some sort of personal conclusion, even if their conclusions about God are far different from my own. I guess having experienced a religious conversion myself I have empathy for the staggering changes it brings to one's life.
This documentary is very watchable, very thought-provoking and even entertaining. I highly recommend it and I will be reading Dr. Everett's book soon. You can watch the documentary, The Grammar of Happiness on Smithsonian's website.