This week, the 102nd Universala Kongreso – the World Congress of Esperanto (English) – meets in Seoul, South Korea. About 1,100 registrants were anticipated, and I have enjoyed watching streamed official coverage, personal video blogs and social media posts. And while I’ve written about Esperanto before, the fact that I’m becoming stronger in the language means that these reports mean more to me than how I could enjoy it before: as a historical and linguistic exercise, and as a model for inexpensive meetings.
Esperanto has a feature little spoken-of and unimportant to some (if not many) Esperantists. Early on, Esperanto’s founder L. L. Zamenhof had hoped to develop a religion that could be as much of an auxiliary to one’s own religion as Esperanto would be a universal auxiliary to one’s native language. Ethical and respectful, Zamenhof first named his religion Hilelismo after the Jewish sage Hillel, but later dubbed it Homanarismo or “Humanity-ism”. But there was enough patent anti-Semitism and a cultured rejection of religion scuttled the plan.
Instead, at the eighth Kongreso in 1912, Zamenhof aware of the close ethnic barbarism (particularly against Jews) continuing in the world, described the language having interna ideo – an “inner idea” – which though entirely optional for Esperantists, nonetheless appears when they meet.
“[S]ur neŭtrala lingva fundamento forigi la murojn inter la gentoj kaj alkutimigadi la homojn, ke ĉiu el ili vidu en sia proksimulo nur homon kaj fraton.”
“On a neutral language foundation, dispel the walls between the peoples and continually accustom (we might say sensitize) human beings, that everyone of them would see in his or her own neighbor only a person and brother.”
And, while entirely optional, it’s an ideal that I believe has made Esperanto survive when nearly all other constructed languages fall. There’s no way to really know if the interna ideo holds, but there enough evidence of international cooperation, respectful action (particularly to blind persons) and a desire to hold regional gatherings to see Esperanto isn’t the preserve of misanthropes. It’s about the ideo and making a new land which is no-land, carried in backpacks and conversation, not the grammar and vocabulary.
I take his from the interna ideo: we each carry within ourselves a potential and yet unrealized basis by which we can live with one another. Will it be a good or evil basis?
As a Christian, this helps me better appreciate Jesus’ words: The Kingdom of God is within you. With growth, comes the ability to appreciate. This is why we continue to learn and deepen in faith. Faith either grows or dies; there is no preservation. The outcome of this effort is the fruit of the Spirit. But if our faith dies, there will still be an outcome, but one influenced by whatever takes its place.
(The Rev.) Scott Wells