lost in translation

When the familiar name and face took the stage in the intimate auditorium, I felt a rush of fan-girl adrenalin. I clicked to his IMDB profile and tried to silently explain the significance of the speaker to the 13-y-o. The 13-y-o looked blankly at the credits that meant nothing to him. I clicked to the celebrity’s Wiki page. The 13-y-o was visibly confused. Half the adults in the audience spent the next fifteen minutes trying to get a picture of the speaker. When he left the stage, a few brave souls shook his hand and tried to glean more words from the man whose life experiences make him a Superhero to middle-aged hippies. I nudged the 13-y-o outside to talk about the significance of the speaker.

Have you ever tried explaining a television celebrity to a child who only watches TV on the DVR or DVD? “The whole family would watch him every Sunday night.” “Why?” Doug and I spontaneously sang the commercial for the show’s sponsor. The 13-y-o looked at us like we were in need of medication. “He did it before all the guys on The Discovery Channel.” “I thought that guy died.” We attempted to describe a world without Internet, where other countries might as well have been other planets. “Seeing things that you had only read about felt magical.” “Didn’t books have pictures back then?” We tried to explain philanthropy. “So, the guy who was talking has lots of money?” “No. He has no money. He gives his time and talents.” “What?”

Eventually, we thought that the 13-y-o had a vague idea who the evening’s speaker was, even if he didn’t understand why we were so enamored of the man who looks like a movie star, but lives like a monk. “Tell your grandparents who you heard speak tonight.” “Oh, uh, I saw some guy named Stan who used to wrestle alligators and now he flies planes.”

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