Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Samoan Sayings

I've gotten a lot of hits on this blog where the visitor had searched for Samoan sayings or famous Samoan sayings or Samoan proverbial sayings and the like, mainly because of a couple of posts (here and here) wherein I related a number of them to gospel principles. I hope all those who've landed on those pages were able to find some of what they were looking for.

In the years since my mission to the Samoan islands I've wanted to buy a particular book of Samoan sayings. It's a classic, but it's out of print and I've never gotten around to purchasing an old used (likely beaten up) copy. I'm talking about Schultz's Samoan Proverbial Expressions or Proverbial Expressions of the Samoans, whichever you prefer.

Well, in honor of all those who have landed at this site looking for more Samoan sayings than I had to offer, I now present the mother lode: all 560 of Schultz's collected expressions--all for free.

Here we have the ultimate collection of ancient Samoan wisdom and allusions to their myths, legends, nature, and material culture. Samoan sayings or proverbs are a key component to chiefly rhetoric. This handy-dandy reference is a veritable pearl of great price for anyone hoping to make any sense at all of what chiefs really mean when they say something like,

183. E sau le fuata ma lona lou. When the breadfruit harvest comes, the lou will be found, too.

The lou is a long pole with a crook at the end, used in gathering breadfruit. After the harvest the pole will be laid aside or thrown away. For the next harvest the old lou will be fetched again or a new one will be made. Thus, there is a lou for every harvest.

Upu fa'amafanafana. Consolatory words used at the death of a matai: Every generation has its chiefs and orators.

But, you have to be careful. Schultz's great work isn't infallible. For instance, the following example tripped me up about 18 months into my mission:

375. E toa e [sic] le loto, 'ae pa le no'o. The will is strong, but the hips are broken.

The spirit is strong, but the flesh is weak.

It seems innocuous enough, except that in this case no'o doesn't mean hips, it means bowels. And pa doesn't mean broken, it means burst.

A little background is in order: I was serving in American Samoa at the time and had come down with the flu. After visiting with a doctor at the hospital, my fellow missionary, a Samoan, and I were dropped off by some other missionaries at the furthest point in our area so we could make some visits.

We stopped by one family's place and they had prepared the customary meal for us. I ate but little for I had no appetite. The woman who retrieved my tray of food commented on how little I ate. I attempted to smooth over the insult with an apology, which translates as follows: "In truth the desire to eat a lot was there, but as the saying of old men goes, 'The will is strong, but the hips are broken.'"

My Samoan missionary companion burst into laughter. I was startled somewhat and asked him why. That made him laugh even harder because he realized that I'd made my mistake in complete innocence. He asked me where I had heard that saying. I told him that I'd found it in my dictionary, the author of which had drawn from Schultz's earlier work. He asked me if I knew what it meant. I answered in the affirmative, telling him what its figurative application was supposed to be.

He assured me that in that sense of it I wasn't wrong. It was the literal meaning that I hadn't understood. He asked me if I understood the word pa. Yes, I said. He asked if hips, as in hip bones, burst. I had to admit they don't. He then asked me if I knew what was located near the hips which could burst.

It took me a second to think his question through. Then, in a burst of inspiration, it dawned on me what I had said: "The will is strong, but my bowels have burst."

The thing about Samoans is that they have a splendid sense of humor; fortunately, one that can even accommodate a little inadvertent potty humor from an unsuspecting foreigner.

Enjoy the Samoan sayings.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Some Thoughts on the Book of Mormon

I finished rereading the Book of Mormon today, and was impressed by a few things.

I've been impressed by the Lord's urgent plea to us, His latter-day children, to avoid falling into the same traps as did the Nephite and Jaredite peoples which led them to destruction.

I was impressed by the idea that by faith we can become the "sons and daughters of God"--a topic which demands elaboration by further study.

I was again impressed by Moroni's 8 exhortations, all found in Moroni 10:
  1. Remember how merciful the Lord has been to the children of Adam from the very beginning
  2. Ask God if the Book of Mormon is true
  3. Deny not the power of God
  4. Deny not the gifts of God
  5. Remember that every good gift comes of Christ
  6. Remember that Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that spiritual gifts will never cease or be done away so long as the world shall stand--except through unbelief
  7. Remember the words of Moroni because at some point in time we will know, without a doubt, that he didn't lie
  8. Come unto Christ and be perfected in Him
I was impressed by the stark contrast presented in Moroni 9 and 10: that is, the contrast between consummate evil and lack of civilization (chapter 9), and the standard of virtue and righteousness Moroni gives us (chapter 10). It's as though the diamond of Moroni 10 is set against the blackness of Moroni 9, thus we can more readily see the brilliance of the light of Christ as it shines forth through Moroni's final testimony to his brethren.

I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God! I rejoice in this knowledge and pray that I may live true to it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Food for Thought

In the news, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are advocating taxing foods like pizza and soda pop in an effort to decrease obesity among Americans.

Given my education in the exercise and nutritional sciences one would think I'd be turning cartwheels at such a brilliant suggestion by such esteemed scientists.

Far from turning cartwheels, however, instead I'm shaking my head at the latest manifestation of scientist advocated intrusion into our personal lives. Apparently, these scientists and the lawmakers that buy into their tax-fat rhetoric have little to no faith in Americans' ability to face and overcome the growing obesity-related problems in the way they have overcome problems for over two hundred years: by hard work and the grace of God.

Whatever happened to that indomitable American spirit which enabled our forefathers and foremothers to break free from monarchical tyranny and establish a new nation, abolish the barbarism of slavery, and fight for the survival of democracy and freedom in this land and around the world? Whatever happened to the American work ethic which fostered the industrial and agricultural revolutions, landed our astronauts on the moon, and tamed a wild and oft times barren American continent?

In short, have we come so far from the American ideal that we are no longer masters of our own fate or captains of our own souls? Must Congress decide for us how to control our obesity problems?

Perhaps this thought by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can offer insight into the crux of the matter: "Self-discipline has eroded and societies are left to try to maintain order and civility [and citizens' health] by compulsion. The lack of internal control by individuals breeds external control by governments." (Source)

Our problem isn't the fact that pizza and soda pop exist and are widely available and aggravatingly delicious. Our problem is that we have diminished self-discipline, a lack of internal control.

Americans everywhere, Rise up! Claim that glorious heritage bequeathed to you. Pursue the American dream. Accept responsibility for your actions, including the act of eating. Realize that we are free to choose but we are not free to choose the consequences.

Understand that in this universe governed by immutable laws that there is no getting around the laws of thermodynamics: If you put calories into the body they will either be put to use to keep you alive and well or they will be stored, primarily as fat.

And finally, for those who are able to enjoy pizza and soda pop responsibly, tell the scientists to get to work solving world hunger and the lawmakers to find a way to reduce the national debt and to stop trying to make food more expensive than it already is.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Toward the Building of a Better World

I haven't blogged much lately, mainly because I'm busy with school and life in general. But I'm reading good things and thought I'd share a thought with you from something I'm reading.

As a student of science, naturally I enjoy reading the writings of scientists. Most of that which I read, however, is in the form of textbooks and journal articles. Both are interesting and necessary in my development as a scientist, but at the same time it's refreshing to occasionally read a work written by a scientist who is able to step away from the nitty-gritty technical aspects of his or her field and talk about the big picture--the so-called "grand scheme of things"--and do so in a manner that inspires the human soul.

Henry Eyring was just such a scientist, and is the source of today's thought:

In times of uncertainty, such as the present, the increasing effort to understand man's place in the grand scheme of things proceeds at an accelerated pace. That understanding is a problem not alone for the laboratory; many of its answers will be found in the realm of the spiritual. It is important that all men of good will use their energies, their talents and their learning in their chosen fields, mutually assisting one another toward the building of a better world--that world which men of faith in all ages have envisioned and toward which they have labored.

Henry Eyring. The Faith of a Scientist. Bookcraft, 1969, pg. 3.