Wisdom comes from the mouth of babes. It’s so true? There are few who do not love a children’s story. Why is it so? The older we get, the more opportunity we have to accumulate knowledge. Yet, wisdom points us back full circle to our young innocent selves. Ah, perhaps too much analysis will lead me further astray. I’ll simply accept it as it is. We all love children’s stories.
That is why when I came upon the following children’s story at an art exhibition of a friend of a friend in Taiwan, I knew I had to translate it. The exhibition was the final class project of a remarkable art teacher who embodies the humanistic values of bringing the best out of his students through art. He uses art as an affirming projective as opposed to how many clinical projective psychometrics are used these days. His students will often find him inquiring, “I wonder what this part is saying to you?” Or, “why don’t you explore this and see what you can come up with” when referring to a seldom expressed part of the student’s self that appeared on the canvas.
The result of such nurturance was on display that evening. It was revealing for me to admire the progression of the students’ artistic selves that were on display. One could easily discern the development and boldness of the students revealed in the progression of the paintings created as the class progressed. What was on display were indeed “healing arts.” But that is another story.
As a final project of the student’s choosing, a number of students chose to illustrate and write a children’s book. Perhaps part of this choice is reflective of the fact that the art teacher helped each student to actualize their innocent selves? Upon hearing the following story, I was immediately touched and asked the author for her permission to translate the story. The story powerfully illustrated many fundamental principles within existential psychology. Themes such as alienation, companionship, actualization, and authenticity were all powerfully present.
My initial thought was, this should be an easy translation. After all, it’s a children’s story. The story is not long and the words employed are not difficult. However, when I entered the translation process, I found that it was laborious to convey what was most basic and pure. I was challenged to find simpler words to express beautiful, basic concepts and themes without resorting to jargon. I had to labor to avoid familiar terms such as transparency and authenticity. Think about it, dropping semantic bombs such as transience and ontology are sure ways to demolish a children story. So, what I ended up with was a composite children story where I threw in some adult words. How do you explain ephemeral to a four-year-old?
The process of translating this children’s story helped me to realize its parallel when it comes to therapy. The challenge of a good therapist is to translate the abstract concepts that we analyze and contemplate upon on a regular basis to our clients. This translation lesson helped me to understand more that the abstract terminology we employ has its place in scholarly circles. Yet, when it comes to engaging and inspiring our clients in the therapeutic process, wisdom does indeed come from the mouth of babes. Childrens’ stories speak to our hearts and lead us directly to the heart of the matter. Perhaps that is why children, young and old, will listen to them over and over again and remain engaged every time.
So, the next time you’re struggling to communicate something simple and fundamental to your client, perhaps you can consider sharing a children’s story with them. We are never too old to have another children’s story read to us. Meanwhile, enjoy the following story:
Appreciating This Ephemeral You
李立容 (Amy Li)
1. From the moment of birth till now, every day, every moment, we have never left each other’s side.
2. Strolling in sync, vegging together, crying as one.
3. It’s just that, what always troubled me was, why you won’t ever grow up?
The mature me, has become unfamiliar with the childish you.
4. I always worry that you won’t grow up fast enough.
Therefore, I strut on deliberately ahead, leaving you far, far behind.
5. I also worry that everyone will make fun of the childish you.
So I carefully conceal you, ensuring you’ll remain hidden from view
6. You keep me from perfection, I hate this childish you!
7. I’ve decided to hide you in a secret corner,
and pretend that you’ve never existed.
8. Yet just when I thought I’ve been reborn,
I find that apart from you, I remain unhappy.
9. I long to stroll with you again . . .
Such ease allowing me to saunter light hearted, restoring me to my original gait .
10. I like it when we can veg out together . . .
Imagining a world of possibilities. That is when I feel most blessed.
-- Mark Yang