“Language is like a fruit,” writes author and translator Jonathan Dunne. “When it becomes ripe, it opens up to us to reveal its contents.” In Seven Brief Lessons on Language, Dunne waxes spiritual on the nature, efficacy, and power of words.
Dunne presents a series of short essays that thoughtfully and poetically challenge our ideas on reality, infinity, meaning, and God. His opening chapter, “Alphabet,” talks of spiritual blindness and “logoi,” a Greek word, he tells us, that means “little words.” Logoi are small “realities that reflect the presence and design of God.” They help us see beyond the surface of things and point to something awe-inspiring, such as seeing “faces in flowers, faces in water.”
The author also examines some letters of the alphabet: for instance, h, which forms the sound “hu,” or the sound of breath when pronounced. Not coincidentally, Dunne notes, hu is the Sanskrit word for “invoke the gods.” Words have hidden meanings, the author writes, that are revealed to those who “participate in the spiritual life.”
Dunne also explores the Holy Trinity, Oneness, and things we often overlook, like definite and indefinite pronouns. “Things that are uncountable – air, water, love, righteousness… – are not preceded by the indefinite article.”
But it’s his lessons on understanding Christ that illuminate most brightly. “How does an author—God—become a translator?” he posits. “By becoming human.” Christ, hence, is the great translator, the One who makes sense of who God is and our roles as creations of the Creator.
Dunne writes with the heart of a poet and mystic. His lines are simple and elegant, his thinking sharp and astute. Each chapter feels like a prayer and meditation—an invocation to a higher power that suggests the author is experiencing the world for the first time.
Readers of all denominations and belief systems will find much to ponder here and may just see the world a little differently after finishing the last page.