May 10, 2009


The kids –- should I keep calling them Agents 95 and 97? yes –- watered the lawn this morning, the older one wearing his favorite pants, black and peg-bottomed, with an allover print of white swords. He wears them almost every day. Their mom’s going to pick them up for Mother’s Day, and they did the lawn to pay me for paying for her present. Now they’re watching a disc of the TV series Smallville, and I’m reading Book 5 of the Iliad in a translation-in-progress by a friend of mine, who’s already sold it for big bucks to a major publisher. It’s so good and he’s so painstaking, I can only send him a few little corrections per book. For me, it’s like watching an Olympian being born from the sea.

Carlos, the Honduran guy who mows my lawn, weeded my wildflower plot and mulched my trees without my asking. I thought he was overcharging me for mowing but I see he wasn’t. We each have about twenty words of the other’s language, and we understand fine.

Everything we perceive or communicate is a translation. My eyes, optic nerves, and brain translate the lawn when I examine it to see if the Agents gave it enough water. My linear, one-dimensional words translate the multiform thoughts and physical impulses, far beyond what I can perceive, that come to life when I review the lawn-watering, which is already in the past. This written message translates my "soul," a word which is an awkward, inaccurate translation of something I barely glimpse through a distorting mirror. Translation is all we have, and it’s why Plato was right in thinking we live in a cave watching shadows on the wall. Whether there’s an ideal world or not, that’s necessarily true.

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