An unlikely word about convention economy

The World Congress of Esperanto (Universala Kongreso, or UK) started its meeting this evening in Lille, France.

I’m not there; perhaps next year in Slovakia. But to mark the occasion, I looked up the official World Esperanto Association (Universala Esperanto-Asocio, or UEA) and found this page, incongruously written in English, and thus the title of this blog post. It’s meant to explain the UK to “partners” presumably to include local government and tourism authorities, who are more likely to read English than Esperanto.

Now, I’ve found Esperantists to be thrifty in their arrangements, and this passage sums up the reasoning in a dignifed way:

As a non-profit NGO, UEA is a very budget-conscious organization and so is the Congress of the Association. This congress has many special charms, but sober treatment of the financial matter is required. The delegates pay expenses from their own funds and usually are price conscious. Many of the delegates come from developing countries, and there are significant proportions of retired people and students among the participants. This is a people’s congress for ordinary people, not an elaborate meeting of executives financed by corporate funds.

I think you could say much the same about General Assemblies. Ours, and from the #CampbellCon plaints, others, too. Just because you’re clergy doesn’t mean that our basic meetings are affordable, or paid from expense accounts.

In case you wonder about the costs of going to the UK, see this registration cost page. Early registration for a typical member from a rich country is 180 euros; a member with a disability from a poor country would pay 60 euros; and a person under 21 would pay nothing. For some hotel options, see the Dua Bulteno (Second Bulletin; the First is the invitation with registration info) with lodging info, from page 9, including student accomodation, much like the Unitarian Universalist use of college dorms. Or here. I also like the meal ticket (see page 12), for example six dinners — two courses, cheese, dessert and tap water for 54 euros, but this may be an opportunity of meeting in a French college town. (Another Esperantist custom — the amasloĝejo; “mass-dwelling” — is often only BYO sleeping bag crash space; a hard sell for most people. But the Lille local committee did try to find a place, without success. I did have an attendee crash on my apartment floor the one year I lived in a GA town.)

You may also note excursions (from page 13) and a banquet that show that some Esperantists have the means and will to spend more.

And you may also note that the flight from North America would double all of these costs. But there’s something to learn here if we try.

Harder to return to blogging

I’ve only written one blog post since before General Assembly, and is was of a “what do you think” format. It’s been for a number of reasons:

  1. There’s been lots of work at work, and sometimes writing this blog seems like added work.
  2. This is my family’s season for birthday and anniversary celebrations, plus a family wedding this year. That’s more fun that blogging.
  3. Selection_153I’ve spent the last month “conquering” (their term) the Duolingo Esperanto course. Mi skribas kaj legas Esperante pli bona ol unu monato antaŭ, and the gamified process was quite fun and rewarding. I even got a certificate.
  4. I didn’t have much to add to the discussion of the vital issues of the day, except that, at some points, I thought that writers were lost in delusional or self-serving arguments. And I decided to keep my own counsel.
  5. Oh, and I think that Unitarian Universalism has a grim future — as bad or worse as the mainline — and that forward progress is likely to look like a salvage and reconstruction exercise.

So it’s a bit hard to get back into blogging.

I wish Unitarian Universalism was a game!

One set of people suggests liberal religion, and Unitarian Universalism particularly, is easy, insincere and a mental or spiritual plaything because of its inherent looseness and high regard for personal autonomy.

Another set of people — that’s us — seems to take that that as a challenge, rather than opportunity to correct our behavior or refute the premise. (Or not care about the challenge.) The conventional answer is that Unitarian Universalism is the most difficult religion (because of all the decisions and so forth) and thus very sincere and serious and so forth. There’s a mountain of sermons like that. Cue the rueful laughter in the background.

This approach should die a quick death. It makes our religion look like a crashing bore, and without the payoff of grand institutions, a mass movement or a corps of spiritually exhalted leaders. It’s all the burden of our Puritan heritage with none of the value.

One of the things that makes religion appealing is its capacity for joy — sometimes spiritual, sometimes material, often unseen or unappreciated by outsiders.  The grinding, scolding earnestness that you so commonly find when two or three Unitarian Universalists are gathered makes me want to hide. Usually hide with friends at General Assembly.

Last night, reading the program guide for this month’s General Assembly was the proximate cause of this blog post. Reading it to stay informed, as I’ll not be there. (For the reduced number of workshop slots, don’t some people show up over and over?) Family comes first; see you in Columbus in 2016. I’m sure there will be good parts, but the earnestness leaps off the page. Even the fun doesn’t sound so fun.

I spent the rest of my evening improving my Esperanto skills. Now, Esperantists are a people who have the earnest-fun balance down pat. A group created well-game-ified lessons on the Duolingo site. I spent the evening taking little game-like tests, tracking my progress, and earning immaterial rewards. The subtext was “this is fun, this is possible, you can do it.” And so I kept doing it.

There’s a lesson in that.

Follow my progress in my Esperanto studies on Duolingo, if you like. And join in.

The Lord’s Prayer in Esperanto

I’m at that point in my Esperanto education that I had better move the next level or accept being left as an eterna komencanto: an “eternal beginner.” That’s not bad (article in English) per se, but I would like to attend conferences — organized, if off-beat, travel (esperante) is one of Esperanto culture’s big pay offs — and I’m hardly going to do well, if I can’t make dinner plans effectively. Some of the conferences are for and by Christians, (esperante) and they’re appealing and (once you fly to Europe) cheap. So I figure I’d better memorize the Lord’s Prayer.


Patro nia, kiu estas en la ĉielo,
sanktigata estu Via nomo.
Venu Via regno.
Fariĝu Via volo
kiel en la ĉielo, tiel ankaŭ sur la tero.

Nian panon ĉiutagan donu al ni hodiaŭ.
Kaj pardonu al ni niajn ŝuldojn,
kiel ankaŭ ni pardonas al nian ŝuldantojn.
Kaj ne konduku nin en tenton,
sed liberigu nin de la malbono.

Ĉar Via estas la regno
kaj la potenco
kaj la gloro eterne.


Changing the character set, or trying to

So, my blog is old enough that the character set is all goofy. Translation, when I try to write something in Esperanto with circumflexes, I get question marks or oddments in their place.

Example: ĉiutaga preĝejo. This will not do. This blog needs to display in UTF-8, but doesn’t. And converting the database is not risk free.

This notice is in case I ruin my blog for a few hours or a few days.

More on the simplified conference

I mentioned the concept of the Esperanto weekend before. Think low-cost, lightly pre-programmed meetings with a focus on fellowship. Perhaps the container for an unconference. Two more thoughts.

1. The next Esperanto weekend will be in Richmond, Virginia. (details in English and Esperanto). Here is a how-to, if you read Esperanto.

2. Buses. Megabus, the emerging intercity bus carrier, is expanding in the mid-Atlantic region.  When you look at their service map, consider supporting rail service and highways, good value, restaurant and services in “in-between” locations, some go-to cities pop up for further research. A goal is regional convenience, not national scope.

  • Harrisburg, Penn.
  • Richmond, Va.
  • Hampton, Va.
  • Morgantown, W.V.
  • perhaps Storrs, Conn.
  • perhaps Frederick, Md.
But I wonder about other regions.

Conferences, simplified

I believe I’ve praised the Esperanto culture of membership organizations and conferences. (You have to love a language that makes membership blank a basic vocabulary word. And for any number of internal cultural reasons, Esperanto conferences tend to be very, very good value. After all, the goal is to have Esperanto speakers meet and (since some of whom have their own additional interests, such as ham radio, keeping cats or Unitarian Universalists) conduct the work of organizations. With a focus on low-pressure fun. A time to make fellowship. Bring your ukulelo.

So consider the Mekaro, la Mez-Kanada Rekontigxo (The Mid-Canada Gathering). It’s a weekend of sightseeing, free time and dining in Kingston, Ontario. Tapas or Cambodian? Alehouse or coffeehouse? $50 for adults, including four museum entry fees, plus the cost of two dinners and a lunch, perhaps another $50. College housing available for about another $50, single. Exciting? Doubtful. But I bet it was fun.

And look at this weekend in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The main considerations seem to be that it is accessible to different people and that the costs are low. (Walking access to rail and bus help here.) Offers to share a room (that comes with breakfast) plus two meals (essentially a split check, and with cuisine that accommodates vegetarians) with a single outing and loosely structure fun time. A minimum of organizing that provides the introduction for people to have fun and an opportunity to do something else (plan another event; launch a website; teach a class?) if they want. Or not.

An opportunity, at a price and structure that promises little and risks little, has a lot to speak for it.