Thursday, April 20, 2006

Sugar Rays


The weather is hot these days. I can sit outside, and get more coloured, less boringly even-toned. I have something to look forward to in life.

Yorubas worship many things but not the sun.
There's Olokun and Ṣango, there's Ọbatala and Oduduwa, Ọrunmila, Ọṣun, Ọya, Ṣanpọna, Ogun, Eṣu, Yemọja, Egungun,...

They are associated with rivers/the sea, thunder/fire, the future/divination, smallpox, iron/weapons/war, birth, and our dead ancestors. Oduduwa/Oodua is the founding father of the Yorubas, while Ọbatala makes people. Olodumare/Eledumare/Ọlọrun is over them all. Ọrunmila is second-in-command, like the manager.

I love the story about how when people are made, their headless bodies are made first, but each person chooses his own head. So you might have picked a good head before you were born, representing your lot/luck/destiny, or you might have a bad destiny. Oloriburuku - a person with a bad head - is one of the first words non-Yorubas learn in Yoruba, to use to insult people. What a deep insult it is...if you think about it.

The Arabs, or maybe just Sana'anis, call people crazy all the time, for fun, because they love you, or because you puzzle them, or annoy them. If you're superstitious in the cast-out-demons Christian sense, however, there's nothing funny about being majnoon/majnoona, which really means having spirits - and probably not "The Holy" one.

Speaking of trinities, a crazy person in Yoruba is were. First word. The second word people learn is usually oloṣi - a rubbish person, a nothing, or one who does foolish things, I suppose. The third is oloriburuku.

After you master these, and add perhaps "your head is not correct" - "correct" in pidgin, "complete" in proper English - and "your head is not good" (ori ẹ o pe and ori ẹ o daa), you're ready to proceed to hello, good morning, good afternoon...

In Igbo, I know Onyioshi - possibly the same as Oloṣi?, Onyara - mad, mechionu - shut up.
May I just add that Ibo people sound so foolish saying some Yoruba insults, that if I was in an altercation and heard someone say "oriope," or "orodaa," I might just burst out laughing.

In Hausa I know barawo/barauniya - thief, sege - which you say pushing your palm in the direction of the object of your contempt, and which I suppose means curses in general, banza - bastard, and, thanks to a curse-a-lot childhood housemaid, I know how to combine and embellish them to say things I didn't understand, let alone mean.

In Italian, ...

Anyway, back to the subject: sunshine.

I met a very quiet guy on Friday, who after I told him what my first name meant, asked me to which Oluwa/God it referred. Not sure. I'd never been asked that before. I suppose whichever one you believe in, that is, either Olodumare the one who delegates to dozens of gods and helpers whom you may worship freely, or the jealous, first-commandment-is-there's-only-one-me God of the Bible.
I imagine my parents and millions of other Yoruba people don't care.
It's not one of the lesser gods, because the god would have been mentioned explicitly, like in Ṣangotosin, or Oguntosin - both being names I've heard before...and cast-out-demons Christian people would be very careful about saying your name and thereby invoking the evil spirits of a false god.

He thought it was strange that we didn't have a sun god. I guess our sun gave us no reason to worry, he showed up everyday on time. How would my grandparents, or their ancestors, have understood a life where the sun was fickle? Where their warmth depended on this great yellow light in the sky, and they would suffer cold when he did not visit? And the plants didn't smile, their leaves instead yellowing and reddening and dying, until the great bright orange had been bribed into returning?

The fickle sun of California has returned from hiding. We beg him to stay. I am alive since he came. I have painted my toes, I sit outside, I meet new friends, and I have hope.
But I know he doesn't care much about me. Let us pray.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006



They'll say that she was great
born great,
achieved greatness,
had greatness thrust upon her

And alongside that greatness she nursed
enormous doubts
that nagged at her

Until she was worn out with struggle,
when she died.

But struggle she did.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Whuman rights


When the world learned of the Lawrence Summers remarks about women and science, I thought the man needed better judgement. I didn't wish that he would actually cease to be President of Harvard on account of this. I had mixed feelings about the guy.

Of course women can and do teach, prove theorems, make money, kill people, and manage organizations. Still, fewer women than men are identified as billionaires or army Generals. Taib.

People at the top of society in America find it in the Nation's best interest to not leave large groups of people undeveloped, their talent untapped. Maybe they think life is more fair that way. Maybe they recall having a door closed to them because of their height, gender, accent, family income, hairstyle, skinshade, body-mass-index, girliness, religion, or nationality.

Sentimental stuff.

They say they're doing diversity for the Nation, as in: otherwise we'll go to war with a country that has invented something that we never found because the person who would have found it is in jail or couldn't get hired because of our laws.

They don't always bring up their personal reasons, as in: I always wanted a son only got daughters and my daughter is really very good at volleyball (taught her myself, blush) and you know i've seen in her eyes how she wants to win olympic medals one day even if it hurts and, you know, i just want that girl to be happy.

The occasional political-correctness-challenged professorpresident (pp) thinks out loud: in future, who'll make dinner, and lunch, during the making of mr. dr. important if he's born/married to a fellow future dr. important? or who'll mostly raise the kids he wants to help raise?

Folks shout down the pp quickly because sometimes pp's are dim-witted, but often because folks don't want the arguments clouded or to risk rolling back the gains of their pet movement. That's politics, people.

Links, a diversity of pps:
speech and resignation
trying to make sense (of it all)
friend of the court
Do academics care about truth? Do academics care about power?