I’ve always kind of known that I do this, but I starting thinking recently, what if I stopped translating all the time? Quit emphasizing different points of the story to different people, depending on what I think they’d “get,” using different words with different people: I use “God” with my parents, “The Universe” with my more spiritual/hippy friends, and of course I mean the same thing. What I if I stopped using different entry points on certain topics too? (If I say I’m doing this because it will “pay the bills” it will make more sense to this person. If I say I’m doing it because “it really resonates with me” it will be more easily understood by this other person). Recently, all this translating has started to feel like jail, like a lot of pre-filtering. I wondered what words I would use if I were just talking to me. What are my words?
I get that I’ve done this because I so want to connect with others and because I believe people often use different words for the same thing and then get hung up on the linguistics and think they mean different things (or think they disagree) when really, they don’t.
With music, it’s easy, I feel like a channel. The songs feel true and I know people will “get” them. I don’t know where the songs come from exactly, but I let them come. Each song is a gift and I know I’m not wholly responsible for creating it. Why is it not the same with conversations?
I don’t know. In many ways, I know that truth lies beyond the reach of language and that music is able to express things words can’t. But what I don’t know is when exactly the automatic translating started – if it started when I was in Catholic school (and I got in the habit of telling two different stories about my life: one to parents/teachers and another to friends) or if it started when I was a philosophy major and was always looking for common ground among the philosophers. Maybe it started more recently when certain religious institutions were fucking up all over the place and I felt too embarrassed to say to my East Coast atheist friends: “Yes but I still love those Buddha and Jesus stories – I think they are love stories.” Instead I’d say something watered down like “I think that things, in the end, work out for the best.” What am I, Hallmark? It’s not that I don’t think that things work out for the best in the end (I mean technically, the end could be 10,000 or 40 million years from now or never) it’s just that in saying that (or something like that), I was translating.
What would happen if I stopped?
What could I do with the extra energy?
More importantly, what would happen if I spoke my truest language all the time?
As soon as I asked the question, I knew the answer. I was afraid I’d lose people. What if people didn’t understand me? What if they were people I loved? What if they were family members?
I have always had such a deep longing to connect and I couldn’t bear the thought of being misunderstood or not connecting and yet, by protecting myself in this way, I wasn’t connecting ANYWAY.
Have you ever found yourself talking around the heart-of-the-matter or not telling the truest version of your story?
Have you ever tried to tell a story using words you know your listener will understand even though they aren’t the ones you would choose? Or do you always speak the same way?
I love to know your thoughts on this!
Feel free to leave a comment below!
PS: On Monday, I’ll be sending out an email about something special! Stay tuned for new songs (I will share them soon over video) and I’m PLAYING this month Oct 24th (Spring Lake, MI) Oct 26th (City Winery Chicago with Paul Cole) and Oct 28th (Private Show).
I would LOVE to see you…(and those are the words I REALLY mean )