Kenneth L. Pike (1912–2000)

My Pilgrimage in Mission*

Kenneth L. Pike


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From Philosophy to Poetry

In the late 1980s, I changed my attention again. I wanted to capture in more explicit philosophical terms and concepts the elements that I had already been treating holistically, which I had partly summarized in Linguistic Concepts (1982). This, I felt, was needed if I was to explain to scholars of a more modular bent the reasons why I wanted the holistic view. So with encouragement from various philosophers, I wrote Talk, Thought, and Thing: The Emic Road Toward Conscious Knowledge (1993). The emic material also led to a public three-hour debate with anthropologist Marvin Harris before an audience of other anthropologists.

But language and philosophy are not the end of life or its center. Somewhere, one must note and feel and discuss the personal reaction to beauty, joy, love, hatred, power, greed, good, pain—and the worship of Almighty God, which involves working with him to build the house he has planned (Ps.127:1). In With Heart and Mind (1962) I published many articles about such matters. But such essays are not enough. Poetry is needed to capture many of the reactions of the heart. My most recent focus, in the mid-1990s, has been on poetry. I close with my "Flaming Candle" (first published in 1958), which emphasizes that I want my life to be a witness to people in the dark, as we are all walking in our own weariness.

Flaming Candle

Sharp cut lamps of night—
By strength of Mighty God
Lighted with eternal fire,
Placed in candlestick of naught—
And roaring with energy transformed—

So we would shine,
Transformed from nothing, set apart
To light worlds with Glory
Born beneath a candle
Set o'er Bethlehem's morn.

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*International Bulletin of Missionary Research, October 1997, used by permission.