Since my teenage years, I’ve occasionally entertained fantasies of being part of an elite group of one sort or another. These fantasies originated, I think, in an unmet need to be loved and accepted as ordinary. To compensate for this insecurity, I learned to customize various short-lived personae built on being extraordinary, unique, different…special. “If I’m not lovable just the way I am,” I reasoned, “then I’ll make myself better and better! Eventually the world is bound to recognize me and give me the affection I deserve!”
And as I wrote about in a previous post (“Special Forces”), the elite teams of the armed forces held tremendous appeal to me, not only because they were ‘special’ but because they touched on the issue of hyper-masculinity. Along with not feeling ‘enough’ as just an ordinary person, I rarely felt masculine enough to boot. Elite warriors were, I felt, worthy of respect, awe, fear, and adoration. They were (supposedly) the paragons of manhood. In essence, they embodied to me everything I felt I dismally lacked.
Somewhere I absorbed the romanticized notion that Bible translators are elite missionaries. Undoubtedly, this perceived elitism was one of the subconscious motivating factors for me getting into that line of work. Eventually though, even the fantasy of translator elitism ran its course and fizzled out. My run as a Bible translator had garnered a fair amount of attention and adulation, but in the long run even it was not enough to slake my thirst for undeniable uniqueness and the certain security I thought it would guarantee. Being unaware of these psychological factors, when our Bible translation program caved in, I simply set to work finding a replacement fantasy. It would have to be more elite, more special, more cosmically relevant, etc. Surely that would convince the world that I am lovable, worthy, and finally ENOUGH.
On April 5, 2014, this is what I came up with:
These days I can’t get it out of my head that I should start a “special operations” group for linguists…
Who would be the target of the group?
- Ethnolinguistic groups in the worst places on Earth, places where other people don’t want to go: remote, inaccessible, isolated; insecure politically, tribally, poor and marginalized, oppressed, difficult culturally, spiritually
- Difficult languages: isolates or near-isolates; ones that have defeated other linguists, naturally challenging to learn
What would the group do?
- Linguistic research: grammars, dictionaries, orthographies
- Anthropology: Indigenous Knowledge Systems, ethnobotany, ethography
- Language development: lay dictionaries, teaching grammars, primers and other literacy materials, training and equipping speakers
- Community development: small business loans, resource allocation for community needs, advocacy, publicity, partnership with other players, medical services, tourism, etc.
What are some core values?
- Broad, evolutionary, non-Protestant-only, Christological view of language
- Prayer – hearing from the Commander in Chief
- Faith for provision of needs
- High level of professionalism
- High level of education
- Mental, physical, spiritual toughness
- Flexibility, adaptability, creativity
- Cycle of deployment, rest, training, re-deployment
- Fiscal responsibility, lifestyle simplicity
- Mid-length involvement (e.g. 1 month – 10 years max)
- Embodied communal living
What are some themes derived from military special forces?
- Highest levels of training
- Behind the lines operations
- Lay groundwork for conventional forces
- Sent for the hardest missions
- Sent for the most specialized missions
- Sent to the hardest places
- Excellence, superiority
- Relentless training, improving, re-equipping
- ‘Lethal’ effectiveness
- In-and-out operations
What are some things NOT derived from SPECOPS?
- High value on family and relationships
- Kingdom of God, not any government
- To give life, not deal death
- Humility, not arrogance
- Love, not hate
- Educate and empower, not annihilate
- Strong marriages, not broken marriages
- Purity, not immorality
- Special Language Services
- Glossos Group
- Omega Operations
- Logos Initiative
- Upsilon Unit
- More comfortable being Christian professionals than professional Christians
- Caught between religion and science, evangelism and humanitarianism
- Driven to excel
- More mobile, less likely to settle for 10-30 years
“To see the cognitive-linguistic faculty of all ethnic groups functioning at its highest evolutionary potential, [and this] to facilitate the evolution of the cosmos through humanity toward its future fulfillment in union with God in Christ.”
“To serve ethnic groups worldwide by providing special language services geared toward education, empowerment, and transformation. These services will be provided in the context of loving, respectful, self-sacrificial relationships and incarnational community presence with appropriate involvement.”
*TO ‘SPELL’ THE LOGOS OF GOD IN LIFE AND LANGUAGE.*
Whatever the merits of such a project may have been (despite its colonialist undertones), for me it represented just the next amped-up stage in the flight from my own inner chaos. The strategy I had been living by was to escape inner pain by acquiring more knowledge and more uniqueness – more distance from others – so I could protect myself from further pain. Ironically, this self-protective strategy, when taken to its logical outcome, results in self-destruction. At the summit of delusional superiority, the only air to breathe was of the rarefied intellectual kind. The thicker, more nourishing atmosphere of a fully embodied and socially situated life, I had left far behind.
Gasping for oxygen, I fell to my knees and began to fade…
The self-appointed elite one – the chosen one – must first die before he can truly live.