"Language is a virus from outer space" -- Laurie Anderson
I vaguely remember someone this week suggesting that we simply send Godzilla into Jurassic Park and end the infestation of dinosaurs and sequels once and for all.
What a warm feeling it is when two imaginary worlds collide. It's the friendly surrealism of a good dream, like when you see the Harlem Globetrotters on "Gilligan's Island" or Jesus fighting Santa Claus on "South Park." How lucky can you get to be so removed from real problems that you can consider the problems of imaginary creatures and how other imaginary creatures might affect those problems. Say what you want about our vapid media culture; it beats sitting around waiting for the CARE plane to come. Escapism is a luxury we can evidently afford.
This feeling came around again when I heard about The Klingon Bible Translation Project. For those with no nerd in them, Klingons are warrior aliens from the original "Star Trek" series where they resembled the Frito Bandito. A Klingon language was developed by Ph.D. linguist Marc Okrand from the University of California, and it sounds like someone with a m
Wrong. "Enough" isn't in the vocab of Trekkers. Now a Klingon dictionary is available (samples: cockroach=vetlh; eavesdrop=Daq; saccharine= HaQchor), plus there's the Klingon Language Institute (www.kli.org), where you can read about Shakespeare and the Bible being translated into Klingon, which the site says was done for "purely secular reasons."
The coming together of two fictional realms -- God's and Shatner's -- has that irresistible chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter mingling of sensibilities. To find out what the Klingons themselves thought about this, we trooped down to Vulkon, a huge annual Trekker convention in Tampa, armed with two pictures -- one of Jesus (actually Buddy Christ from "Dogma"), one of Ned Flanders in case the concept of Christianity required explanation -- and one question: "Why?"
One thing Trekkers have in common with Christians is devotion. In fact the far-out space nuts might even outdo church types in this regard, as the religious don't generally dress up as God when they go to services. The outfits we saw at the convention could give local theme parks pause and the allegiance of the Trekkers could make Pentecostals look as laid back as Buffett fans. At the center of it all there are the Klingons, drinking what looked like wine and huffing down cake in a noisy private celebration in the lobby of the Tampa Hilton, causing the brows of non-Trek guests to knit themselves into sweaters.
"Qapla," a Klingon aloha, is the greeting I get from Khetara (Christine) and LaQru (Susan). They are Klingon girls who, despite the rep of their tribe, were extremely chatty and personable. Asked whether the Bible would interest them, they said sure: "We wish to find out what motivates the culture ... so we can take it over." They noted that it must be a very important book since we stick it in every hotel room.
A second Klingon we ran into at the bar, who thankfully just called himself "GlennÃ¢" sported full Klingon makeup and human glasses, and looked a bit like an intellectual Jo Jo the Dogfaced Boy. "To die in battle is desired by the Klingon culture," he said, adding that the book of Revelation would be meaningful as "a concept of an empire in turmoil." He also thought Klingons would be impressed by Jesus taking on the sins of the world, saying that, "for a Klingon, to sacrifice yourself" for your cause is an ultimate honor.
No cheeky appeal
Meg, a Klingon-identified girl with a pretty, putty-free face, said that "a great deal of life -- passion, war, betrayal" stems from Biblical concepts the Klingons might groove to more than the fluff of turning the other cheek. Trekker and religious-studies major Christina Pauka could see why the Bible would be of interest, especially for the appeal of the jealous God of the Old Testament, though she noted that Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" might be more appropriate. Dennis, a regular guy in a Jesus T-shirt in the merchandise room, thought some pre-Christian texts and the passionate verse of Lord Byron would appeal to Klingons more than the Bible.
I suddenly realized that I had started to talk about this like it was real, a kind of scholastic cultural outreach program. It was the feeling you might get if you caught yourself addressing the dummy instead of the ventriloquist. Deep space suddenly got way too deep.
Still, it was nice to be completely separated from reality without having a hangover the next day. Plus, the Klingons were so easy-going about the Bible project, who knows, we might be looking at a Pope with a ridged face one day. It could happen. After Godzilla gets in here and sprays for dinosaurs.