Friday, September 29, 2006

The Altar of Simplicity

How will the angels hear us now? Seems Southerners are making a less joyful noise unto the Lord. With some interesting gnashing of teeth and observations, Gainesville Times columnist, Rhonda Rich, laments how we are fast losing the lyrical beauty of our unique, southern speech. And Ms. Rich places the blame right on the bland, dumbed-down heads of our megachurch-going populace.

From today's Gainesville
What has happened here is that the Bible Belt is no longer reading the King James version of the Bible. It, with its difficulty in language, has been traded in by the majority of Southerners for simpler translations that tell stories straight out by using today's contemporary language.

These versions are bland, uninteresting but completely understandable. By moving en mass to plainer versions of the Bible, we have sacrificed our gorgeous language, laying it, without thought or concern, at the altar of simplicity.

Ms. Rich's excellent column in full here.

I'd say language erosion is not just a southern phenomenon, and that cultural homogenization via mass media has been a more significant contributing factor than the loss of the very confounding King James Bible. Social media technologies will no doubt finish-off the victim too, given that most folks under 30 don't even bother to create complex language structure at all; rather, they furiously scratch-out acronyms, symbolic grunts and grins, and rude hand gestures via text messaging. Maybe we're de-evolving back to sign language?

Then again, when I blog, even though I try to keep it as "real" as possible, I often experiment in placing interesting words in just the appropriate places, words I'd never have a chance of utilizing in everyday interaction. Blogging offers a linguistically intriguing medium, should one care to use it that way. It's a shame so many of the most popular blogs are written by technology-motivated non-writers who lack the slightest flicker of poetic sensibility, let alone basic social skills. But that's another topic altogether.

Working with words is one of the reasons I bother to blog at all. And notice the use of language on The Colbert Report, how he plays with interesting words and unusual, chiefly snarky, interpretations in The Word segment. Perhaps mass media shouldn't be written off entirely. Just rethought. After we have, of course, stormed the Media Bastille.

Still, blaming Southern Baptists and the mega-church suburbanista crowd for all our cultural woes is always a ton of fun. Let's not give it up just yet! But if you're missing religious grandiosity in your life, as well as the King James version, I suggest you get to know the Episcopal Church service and its gorgeous, ceremonious, liturgical comforts - timelessly reassuring with a full display of the traditional grandeur of the high church, uh, performance.

I know that after a really hard, hideous week in the often pointless and culturally barren urban minefields of a relentless ATL, when I walk into an All Saints' service, where majestic voices from that stunning choir and the pipes of the blaring organ literally crash into me at first note, a power-ridden divine beauty radiates from the red and gold vaults and instantly drives doubt and despair away, renewing my psyche, my actual body, with something far more substantial.

Simplicity has its place, but should never be given a cultural credit it has not earned and does not deserve.

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