Lost in Translation

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The human mind loves controversy the way an open fire loves a forest. We allow the pressing influence of the majority to affect our thoughts and interpretations, rarely permitting ourselves to dampen the flame.

There are roughly 6,500 languages spoken today, a number so vast it is hard to believe. Today, we struggle to comprehend one another, not only in speech but in action as well. Just learning the linguistics of a language is not enough for us to bridge the gap between cultures. 

Having studied the Chinese language at an early age, I came to realize that it is not just a matter of memorizing strokes and sounds. Each character is a visual representation of its meaning. At just four years of age, this understanding helped me progress from merely translating words to having a profound perception of the language and culture.

Translation becomes an issue in many aspects of our lives. My journey with religion has been a long and endearing one; a pilgrimage through my thoughts to achieve a pure understanding. 

I read the childrens’ Bible countless times when I was little, one story every day before bed. It was when I started reading the actual Bible, that I encountered issues. I struggled to move past the first few chapters, to ignore concepts that went against my very core principles. 

The first line that struck me was “Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you”. The degradation of the female character is prominent throughout even the first few chapters. I could not comprehend the reasons for these proclamations and so, I set the Bible aside and decided not to read it.

I tried to move on with my daily activities but there was a constant nagging at the back of my mind; an irritating buzz preventing me from concentrating on anything else. I knew I had to try again, and so I did. This time I made it past a few more chapters but with every page, I encountered worse.  Once again, I kept the Bible down because I could not bring myself to read any further. 

I was faced with a dilemma; how could I read the Bible when there were such morally wrong concepts expressed? I took a few days to mull over my thoughts, I did my research and what I found helped me get past my feelings of discomfort.

To truly understand the Bible I dove deep into the origin of the Bible; how it came to be and the years of history staining its pages. The Bible has been passed down between generations, translated from language to language. Some scholars claim that the word “homosexuality” was mistranslated from a word that means “paedophilia” which leads us to the conclusion that God did not condemn homosexuality but rather the act of paedophilia. This simple mistranslation has led to years of homophobic oppression from the Church and Christians, a tragedy that could have been avoided through clear communication.

Most of all, I understood that the Bible had been edited, by those in power. Those who found the perfect way to subject women and minority groups to their will. Constantine, a Roman Emperor who lived from 306 to 337 AD,  invented Christmas; it did not exist in the Church before his rule. He decided that Jesus’s birthday will be on December 25th, when in actuality Jesus is believed to be born somewhere in July. If such a core aspect of Christianity could be changed by the hand of a single man, how can we assume that nothing else has been altered?

Since the beginning of time, concepts and ideas have been lost in translation. Messages have been twisted with the original meaning left far behind. One small mistake or miscommunication can have a devastatingly cascading effect. 

With this understanding of mistranslation in mind, I could finally sit down and finish the Bible. I chose to look past the erroneous misconceptions and read between the lines. By taking the time to comprehend the situation, I found true meaning. 

As individuals, we tend to judge in seconds, making assumptions that consolidate in our minds, refusing to budge. We do not attempt to look past the façade, to find crooks and niches that lead to places of greater understanding. We choose to drown in a sea of confusion, ignoring the lifeline of communication held out to us. The key to our connection lies in our capacity to unroll the tightly folded recesses of our minds and open ourselves to the unknown. We need to be mindful of a situation and take the responsibility to be aware of the context that comes with it.

With an open mindset and a willing heart, I believe there will come a time when the language barrier will no longer be a barrier.

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