Lost in Translation

My language pains me.
I long for facility
To spin metaphor.

But I’m too literal.

Even when I write in terms of imagery my words on the page are simply descriptive of what is in my mind. I listen to songs like I am the Walrus with a strong sense of jealousy.

How I would love to be able to take that step beyond my literal translations to that fantastic realm where instead of painting what I see I am able to conjure whole new worlds.

It makes me feel that I have no imagination; that everything I think of is derivative. I am only able to assemble montages of what already exists, apply what others have invented.

My words disappoint me because they are such a pale imitation of the richness and depth of my thoughts. They are static, a snapshot of the mental maelstrom giving no clue as to the turbulence within.

Translating Passion

I have a deep connexion to the written word. The art of writing is one of my great pleasures in life, reading is another. Words are little parcels of meaning and reading one unwraps the gift to reveal a glittering treasure of ideas. Each one is a seed that takes root in the mind, growing and bringing forth sweet fruit.

When I write I use words to build a representation of my mind state. It’s not a simple, mechanical process although experience has made it largely effortless; it’s a creative endeavor in which I use my feelings and mental images as the template through which I shape a story.

I never start with an outline or any structural plan for what I intend to write: inside my mind there is no such linear organization. The ideas exist as a single entity, a gestalt. I see and feel the whole at once, aware of each part but much more aware of how their combination results in meaning that transcends any simple arithmetic of combination.

Words are pigments and brush strokes; the page is my canvas and I paint what is inside my mind, producing an imperfect representation in my drive to express my thoughts. I cannot hope to portray every detail, the intricate richness of what I see behind my eyes. Instead I strive to present a faithful impression, a sketch. To indicate through hints the underlying shape. To provide the dots that my reader can join in their own mind.

Writing is immensely emotive. These elements from my mind that I translate via my keyboard can be painfully intense, carrying as they do a wealth of emotional association. Analogy and visual metaphor have their roots in these feelings: they are the manifestation of my visceral, physical responses to stimuli via the vision-oriented functioning of my brain.

Sometimes it feels as if the ideas themselves are alive within my mind and it is they who strive to be heard through me. The act of writing becomes one of observing as they flow out onto the page. My hopes and fears, loves and loathings want to be heard and they tumble out as I watch, lost in the ecstatic bliss of creative release. To simply call writing a passion falls short: it is far more important to me than that.

Words For Sale

Words line the streets
Promising pleasures,
Alluring treats
And sinful treasures.

Words are one of the most prevalent signs of what it flatters us to call civilization, a consequence of near-universal literacy. We are able to encode our thoughts in such a way that others may decipher them: a real life example of mind-reading.

A walk through a town exposes one to countless words. There are utilitarian ones like “Stop” signs and “Walk/Don’t walk” on crossings. There are informative ones like street signs, and names on shops and other businesses. And there are the other ones…

The words that entice us, lure us, influence us. The ones that loiter along the sidewalk trying to gain the attention of passers by. The ones that sell themselves to be used for others’ purposes. Done up in their brightest, most colorful attire they compete with each other to bring in money for their employers.

These are the abused, trafficked, enslaved words, hostage to the whims of the advertisers. Used again and again until they begin to lose their individuality and become mere shadows of a brand. Soulless, emptied of independent meaning, these words live only to be bought and sold.

Light Show

I fall into the diamond sparkle of light refracted by my cut-glass tumbler. Shards of shattered rainbows glint and swirl kaleidoscopically as I spin round and round, drawn deeper into this well of visual stimulation. My world is reduced to the immediacy of this pyrotechnic extravaganza: colors explode, burst, shine briefly and fall to earth while still more rise on trails of glitter to take their place. As I am drawn deeper a cloud of iridescent bubbles floats on the air all around; I am lost in a cloud of polychromatic ephemera. The bubbles burst to reveal a swarm of butterflies, nacreous wings flashing in the light. I float among them, borne by their fluttering, reveling in my weightlessness; they carry me up, higher and higher, until they metamorphose and dissipate into a whirlwind of flashing color, fragments resolving into spectra until I am returned to where I started, captivated by the beauty of the prismatic play of light on my glass.

Thank You, My Friends

      There              are so
  many    people   I have      come
to know since I started blogging, and
I want to express  how much they have
enriched my life. The sense of family
 I feel within this online community
  gives me strength. Acceptance and
   love are the greatest gifts one
    person can provide to another
      in this world. Through the
       medium  of our words we
         connect and come to
           understand that
             we are never
                alone.

If It Looks Like A Duck…

Who am I?

That’s a question to which I struggle to find an answer that satisfies me. Oh, there are no shortage of answers: I’m Ben, I’m a husband, I’m a 40 year old, I’m a programmer, I’m an Aspie… But these are only labels. Some can conjure stereotypes: in the case of programmer that might well be of a pale-skinned, glasses-wearing, high-IQ social misfit with poor personal hygiene, no girl/boyfriend, the muscle tone of a blancmange and a diet of pizza, soda and Twinkies. As with most stereotypes there are elements that broadly fit and others that are way off. The imprecision nags at me like a label in the back of a shirt.

Tell me about yourself.

I won’t deny that I do describe myself as above — the labels, not the stereotype! But with limited time, space, or both, I can’t keep on supplying descriptive tags until I feel I’ve completed the picture. Where does that leave me? Well, people have to fill in the gaps from their own observations and that depends on how I appear to them.

I can tell you that I care very much for my wife but that obviously didn’t show to a group of doctors recently who were urgently treating her for an allergic reaction that caused her tongue and throat to swell. I think they were expecting me to appear agitated and fuss over her but I remained calm — fussing or panicking would not have helped either of us, so I sat there out of the way and let the doctors get on with treating her. That’s what I judged to be the most helpful course of action, and because I care I wanted to act in the way that I thought would benefit her the most. They asked my wife whether I cared about her because I appeared cold and unemotional.

But you don’t look <adjective>.

Some people set great store by their belief in their powers of observation: seeing is believing. And when they’re told something that is at odds with what their own eyes have seen they are inclined to disbelieve it. In this case of the doctors — maxilla-facial surgeons and registrars — even with a passing knowledge of autistic behavior they didn’t believe my wife when she told them I do care about her but I’m not expressive: I didn’t look like I cared. You just can’t win sometimes.

It quacks like a duck, therefore…

If I tell you that I’m 5’11” and 210 lbs, stockily built, physically strong and bearded you will have a particular image of me. You might expect certain traits that correspond to that image: stereotypical masculine traits such as:

  • self-confident
  • independent
  • hard
  • thick-skinned
  • aggressive

You’d be in for a surprise: I’m none of those. So I present as male which matches my biological sex but I don’t necessarily think or behave in the corresponding way. Told you I was weird! 😉

It’s a platypus?

Conan-Doyle wrote  in Sherlock Holmes “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”. And the truth here will have to wait until I have eliminated the impossible. You see, I can’t accurately answer the question with which I opened this essay. I don’t know how to describe who I really am: I’m as reliant on labels as everybody else. To myself I am just me — I know what that means but the collection of thoughts, feelings, behaviors and physical matter doesn’t have a name. Any words I or others use are an approximation, a simple sketch of the reality.

René Magritte in his famous painting La Trahison des Images (The Treachery of Images) captured this perfectly. As the caption on the picture states, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” — “This is not a pipe”. The realization for me of the literal truth of that statement was profound.

And finally…

I hope I’ve not left you disappointed that I didn’t answer my own question. Instead I wanted to explore what identity means and how my perspective cannot be translated to anybody else without losing fidelity. All anybody else will ever see is an imperfect reflection through my words and their eyes.