Simple Terms for Complex Concepts

Having traveled far to seek guidance from the ancient priestess, Anaril, Orek has arrived.
He offers seven apples to the priestess’s assistant and awaits permission to speak.
His present is accepted and he is asked as to what he seeks.

“I’m hoping your wisdom can assist me in overcoming my many failures,” he replies.

The assistant asks, “What is the nature of your failings.”

“I don’t know exactly. I keep trying to be good to others. I try to help them out,” he says.
“But I almost never seem to get it right any more.”

“Please share some examples to illustrate that of which you speak,” the assistant requests.

“I am a village elder. I do something similar to you,” Orek replies. “People come to me for advice. As of late, though, what advice I offer seems to do them little good.”

“Can you share some specific examples?” asks the assistant.

“Sure, I guess,” says Orek. “There’s one, she’s a farmer, I’ve known her all her life. She’s always seemed happy growing things. She comes to me and tells me one day, though, that she was feeling she just didn’t have the energy she used to have. I told her that that was natural, but suggested that she try growing something that took a bit more care, challenge herself a bit. She tried it, and succeeded, but said she found it frustrating rather than helpful. She then got the idea to open a cafe at her farm. A year later, she tells me she’s feeling better than she ever has.

“Then there’s this other. He’s an innkeeper. He likes taking care of things. But lately he was feeling listless. I suggested that he take up more of the work at his inn, to keep himself busier. He tried that for a while, but said it kind of made things worse. Instead, he’s hired a manager and gone off and established two other inns in different towns. He says he’s never been happier.

“Then there’s this trader. She’s new in town and asked me how best to set herself up there. I told her what I’ve seen work before, many times. I said that people in our town like what they’ve seen before, and really just want more of it. Just try to blend in and do what the others are doing. She tried that, then told me she got nothing. It seems she didn’t sell a thing. I apologized and offered to give her offering back. She said to keep it, but still wasn’t looking too happy. Next time I saw her, she’d set up her stall with bright colored cloths, had some musicians with her playing songs the likes of which I’d never heard, and she’d exotic items all about, the likes of which I’d never seen. There were so many people around her, and so many people buying things, I didn’t get to talk to her ’til after nightfall. She told me, after my advice failed her, that she’d asked around a bit and actually got the impression people in our town were a bit bored. So she thought she’d try livening things up.

“I’ve lost my confidence. I’m about ready to send people on their way if they come to me for advice.”

The assistant speaks at length to her mistress, in a language Orek does not know. In reply, her mistress simply says, “Aya eeradil.”

The assistant turns back to Orek and grants him instruction. “Be guided by deep self-knowledge and deep self-truth,” she says, “without presumption as to knowledge and truth regarding others.”

“I’m not sure I understand,” Orek replies.

“The word ‘Aya’ speaks of self-understanding, paying no attention to what others seem to think and feel about you, and without presumption as to what you might think you know about them. It also means to look deep within and determine for yourself what you, personally, find to be true, and why. And, if the reason why is simply that that’s what others have said or have seemed to indicate is so, then to think again, until you have found what you, yourself, see as good and true. ‘Eeradil’ means to keep to, to hold to, especially a path.”

“So when someone asks me my advice, I should ignore what I already know about them, and I should ignore what people have told me, even if lots of folk have told me the same thing time and time again, over the course of years and years, and I should try to figure out what my opinion would be if no one had told me anything?” Orek asks, hoping that he does not seem impolite. “People ask me my advice ’cause of my experience. Lots of my experience is listening to what people say.”

The assistant speaks with her mistress again, in that language Orek does not understand.

Her mistress simply says, “Aya eeradil.”

After a moment, the assistant turns back to Orek and asks, “What do you gain from what people say?”

“Their opinions. What they like and don’t like. What’s worked for them and what hasn’t.”

“How do you know that what works for one will work for another?”

“I don’t, really, I just try my best to guess, based on what I’ve heard and seen.”

“What do you know for sure?”

Orek thinks on that a moment, “I guess I can be pretty sure how I feel about things.”

“And can you be sure of what others would think and feel if they thought on the subject in greater depth?” the assistant asks, “Can you predict what others may think and feel once more time has passed?”

“Not really,” Orek replies.

“But you will know your own opinion, and changes in your opinion, as soon as you give such thought. Is that not true?”

“I imagine so, yes.”

“And the more deeply you dwell on why your opinions are what they are, and the nature of your evidence for them, the easier it may be to speak deep truth and thus add value to what you have to share?”

“Yes, I think so,” Orek replies. “But it sounds like, unless I’m just telling them how to get some place, or who to see to arrange something, like if they ask something personal or such, I should probably just tell them to figure out what they already think, figure out why they think that and, if their reasons seem good, stick to that.”

“’Aya eeradil.”

The ancient priestess looks at her assistant and smiles.

* * *

Though a culture or philosophy may include concepts which may seem unusual and complex to those unfamiliar, a pertinent language would likely contain simple terms to describe such. Using simple terms from that language may render memorization and understanding of elsewise foreign ideas easier. For example, though it does not derive from English, it is simpler to say ‘qi’ rather than ‘that which warms, moves, transforms, transports, activates, defends, and contains’. And, if one doesn’t know what ‘qi’ is when they first hear the term, they gain a term to associate with ‘that which warms, moves, transforms, transports, activates, defends, and contains’, and, if they were not before, they should henceforth be aware of the concept; that there is something that some believe warms, moves, transforms, activates, defends, and contains and that some call it ‘qi’.

From: Purpose and Structure of an Experimental Language

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