The musical collective cdza is a group of musicians who experiment together and post it online. They have presented The History of Misheard Lyrics, Western Music in 16 Genres, The History of Whistling, and a rather sentimental Our Wedding Song collection among other works. All of their videos are incredibly entertaining and speak to the constant shifts in music (and if you would like to check them out, please do so [noting that there is some bleeped vulgarity in a few songs that quote current music] at cdzamusic.com). The one I find most interesting is called Fresh Prince: Google Translated.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, as you may or may not remember, was the sitcom that launched rapper Will Smith into the mainstream and began, for better or worse, his acting career. The theme song is especially memorable to Generations X and Y. For fun, cdza put the lyrics through Google Translate into Chinese and then back into English, and then continued to translate and retranslate them with varying and hilarious results. The line spoken by the mother in the song, “You’re moving with your auntie and uncle in Bel-Air,” sixty-four languages later becomes, “I have nothing!” If you’re reading this online, we’ve hyperlinked the song on youtube, please click here.
Scripture was not written in English, nor is it perfected in it (no matter how loudly KJV1611 advocates yell)—the story of God walking through and with humanity that we hold sacred was written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek over the course of centuries. Not only do some nuances get lost in translation, but new ones emerge as well. We translate when we process from proclamation to brain, and then translate again from brain to mouth, and from mouth to heart, etc. And sometimes, it seems like we’re pulling out all the stops in a massive translation program that is not perfect.
And that’s all right. We, together, are a collective community of people seeking understanding from our faith, seeing what comes before and what comes after, and where everything fits in in the now. We look forward to God’s Reign, and participate in it now. We look back to see where God has been, and up to see where God is going. And together, we talk it out, we work it out, we do it, and hopefully we live it.
This Sunday, the sermon texts are two that often get glossed over and a little lost in translation. I hope when I see you I won’t just holler, “I have nothing!” In fact, I’m pretty sure I won’t. So come and share and let’s interpret together.