“Found” in Translation

Have you ever come to the end of a really funny story or joke only to have it deflated by the listener who says, “I guess it loses something in the translation”? Have you ever read a gripping novel that doesn’t seem quite as convincing in the movie version – or the other way around? Maybe you have visited a great monument or taken a photo of a breathtaking vista, then posted it on Facebook with caption such as, “This photo cannot fully communicate the grandeur of this place.” Frankly, I think life can be full of images and experiences that have the capacity to be rich and authentic – but they are almost impossible to communicate to others. In fact, we often reinterpret and refilter our own experiences, thoughts, values, and visions with the sad result of diluting the authenticity of the deep meaning of the original concept that we should have retained. When we add in life’s normal distractions, it can get worse: “What tie will go with this shirt?” “Latte or cappuccino?” “Flat front or pleated slacks?” “Can I wear my seersucker jacket this early in the spring?” “Are my shoes shined well enough?” All those burning questions – and distractions.

So, with all these authentic and meaningful experiences out there (and in our minds), we somehow manage to misinterpret them, misunderstand them, lose them in translation, and filter them unsuccessfully through the white noise in our lives. Sometimes we even analyze or dissect a concept until it has no life left in it. This brings me to the searching teenager who said something like this: “I don’t think Christianity is for me – it’s not believable. Seven-day creation, forty-day flood, all those impossible miracles in the New Testament – ridiculous.” At this point, I had to swallow hard. A moment later, I said, “Uh, isn’t this just a great piece of music we are working on?! Let’s not worry about bible stories right now – let’s just sing this wonderful music!” As you can see, I didn’t have a workable direct response ready at that moment, so I used a diversionary tactic. Then later in the week, Allen Pote and his librettist, Tom Long, came to the rescue. There I was on a Wednesday afternoon – watching Linda Honaker organizing Carol and Crusader Choirs with staging and movement for Table for Five… Thousand! (written/composed by Pote and Long) – and I thought about how this musical extracted an important meaning from the miracle story: you can start small. Small things can grow into big and beautiful things. That’s all. We don’t really need a lesson on how bread is baked or how fish reproduce – or whether a miracle has to be “instant.” We don’t need to explore the science that might cause us to question the story. (I certainly don’t stop to analyze how thousands of gigabytes of data travel through the air every time I read on my Kindle.) Based on the Pote and Long “translation,” we just need be ready to “start small” and pray that it will make a difference. And we can believe that one human being can change the world – Jesus did! This sounds pretty authentic to me.

Join us for dinner next Wednesday, and plan to attend the musical at 6:30. I am sure that the truth of the story will be “found” in the translation.


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