Quote of the day...er...week...umm...hey, look, a quote!!

"...besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ua Lava

I recall reading about something called "Ua Lava" in an Orson Scott Card book, one of the Ender series.

I think about the idea (as it was presented in the book) from time to time. It appeals to me.

Ua Lava. It is enough.

No negative, no positive...just a statement of fact. Ua Lava, it is enough. Had enough dinner? Ua Lava. Had a rough day and things don't seem to be getting better? Ua Lava. Been laughing until your sides ache? Ua lava.

It is at once an expression of joy, celebration, frustration, hurt, need, despair, contentment, love, and hope. It is a useful phrase, and I've used it on the Evil Genius in combination with "basta!!", which I was raised to believe meant "enough" in Italian.

I dabble in language.

I can't seem to find verification of the meaning behind "ua lava", but I have no reason to doubt that Mr. Card has done his research.

So why am I thinking about it now? I was blog-hopping and wound up at Oktober5's place, where I read his entry about having, not having, and about 100 squares, and it got me thinking about enough, and not enough, and how we define that for ourselves, which brought me to ua lava.

I can make a very long list of what I don't have, and a very short list of what I do have...but ultimately "have" or "have not"? Ua lava.

I wish you always enough and a bit more besides - may you find ways around want, never know need, and have enough left over to help someone fill an emptiness they may not even know they have.


Julian Delphiki said...

I also read Mr. Card's book and found Ua Lava the most intriguing and useful thing throughout the entire book. I use the term constantly to remind myself to be content with what I have and not to be greedy or let things upset me. I have been unable to find much information on the term and the information I have discovered seems to be in Samoan. I have also seen the phrase used in negative way. People use it as a way of saying "I give up" which according to Card is a complete misinterpretation. I wish I could find information to confirm Card's interpretation but it seems to be difficult. If you find anything I would be delighted to see it.

Apollo Unchained said...

Yes, I just finished Children of the Mind and agree that it's the part that has stuck with me. Enough so that while commenting about it elsewhere I started a little research and found this post.

Julian, appreciate your comment too. Good to know that it might also have a negative usage. I'll keep looking.

Anonymous said...

Below is the url of a short online english-to-somoan dictionary. If you scroll down to 'enough' you'll see it there. 'Ua' is whats called a 'verbal particle' it can mean 'it is,' 'he/she is,' etc. 'Lava' means enough, though that meaning seems to be one of many. In looking around for verification as to the authenticity of Card's assertion about these words, I frequently saw 'lava' and 'ua lava' used to mean 'enough' or 'it is enough,' but I was never able to find any evidence that it had a sage or philosophical significance in the Somoan language, (i.e. no good, no bad, all that) in the way that Card portrays it in the book. Anyway..


Jonathan said...

It rang a cord with me too. I use it both and positive and negative. Ua lava is also the moment when I am ready to use the D.M. !

Dean Solofa said...

Samoan here. And a big Orson Scott Card fan. Was pleasantly surprised by the out of the blue reference to 'Ua lava' in the book.

In the way Card uses it, it certainly has that meaning in Samoan as well, but obviously is not fixed either in that way. Depending on the context it is used, it can be used and seen in a philosophical way, and it can just be your post dinner reply to offer of cheesecake and ice cream for dessert.

So in meaning it can be a reflective point of focus about appreciation, satisfaction and being content with what you have, where you are.

It can also be a rallying cry for saying enough is enough, that you've had it with the way things are. While it would tickle me as a Samoan, it could be an appropriate slogan to sling at some protest rally.

Like most things in our Polynesian language (across Maori, Tahitian, Tongan etc.), polynesian proverbs can have many meanings based on the current context of use. I guess that applies across many other cultures too.

Actually Card made me reflect on how this simple two word phrase can have such a large meaning.

Btw saying 'lava' or 'lava ia' can mean 'enough' or 'that's enough'.

Hope this shares something useful.

Dean Solofa said...

I should add also, that it is a fairly important phrase when a conflict occurs and a mediator to one of the parties is trying to calm the situation down.

A large part of the Samoan culture has to do with obedience and patience. Naturally, it can be a boiler of a culture as it also requires a lot of restraint (so in a way it teaches that indirectly). And in fact, a lot of admonishment (from childhood experiences of mine and several fellow Samoans) has to deal with breaches of restraint. Even when i once worked in an office where a dispute arose between two staff members that threatened to get into fisticuffs, the Director called the two into the traditional meeting house we had and tried to mediate and placate their differences and bring their tempers down. Amongst other Samoan phrases he used, saying 'ua lava' was one of them. There is some finality in saying 'ua lava' as it literally means, this is the end of this. To carry on the dispute past that point then would definitely be a huge no-no and most serious cultural faux pas.

I just am curious as to where Card picked this little phrase up from.