Thirty Seconds of TED Translator Fame at TEDActive2012
TEDActive, Palm Springs, Leap Day 2012
7:50 AM. I'm enjoying breakfast with my friend Linda Ellwein at the Wexler Garden. I tell her I have a plan. Is she with me? Of course she is - as if I needed to ask that.
8:30 AM. On the TEDActive stage in the Showlounge, Rives and Kelly open the mic to the audience. Anyone who wants, gets 30 seconds to say, sing or do whatever they like. Any candidates?
8:31 AM. I can't believe I'm doing this. I'm shaking hands with Rives and Kelly. I get to pick my First Follower, because I'm going to start a movement. Apart from Linda and Per, most of my friends have not yet arrived, so I choose Michael, a volunteer in the front row. Ready? The countdown starts.
"Yesterday we heard the oldest surviving musical composition. Today, as a TED Translator, I will give you in English the meaning of the 17 words of Ancient Greek lyrics of that song. Shine while you're alive. Do not be in pain. Life is but short. Time always claims the last word." And then I point at the countdown clock, where I have 4 seconds left.
I gracefully accept Rives's compliment and the applause. Rives shows his true calling as a TED Translator, saying: "That was a nice speech, but in fact there was a mistake in it. This is what the song really means" - followed by a funny made-up poem of his own.
As I get off the stage, I get a big hug from Linda and Per. Two ladies in the audience, previously unknown to me, say: "You know, until now the only thing we knew was that you were the one woman with the four TEDx guys in the Belgian villa, which is quite famous on the TEDActive Facebook group. But that just changed!"
Another man comes up to me: "Could you please write up that text? That is the oldest association of fear and time that I know of!" Wait a minute. Fear. Who spoke of fear? Damn. I said "don't be afraid" instead of "don't be in pain", so yes Rives, that was actually wrong! It probably happened because of what I had been repeating in my head before I went up. Don't be afraid. You're going to be on the TEDActive stage with Kelly and Rives, but don't be afraid. Sorry to dissapoint you, man, no early connection of fear and time in Ancient Greek literature. There goes my chance at a leap forward on the Citation Index.
Flashback to August 1984, Great Hall of the University of Leuven. On my application paper, I fill out "Classical Philology". I savour the sound of it: philo-logy, love of words. For the next four years, I'll be doing lots of translations, from Latin and Ancient Greek to Dutch and even the other way round. I also sing a lot, mostly in the University Choir, where I will meet my husband and many of my friends. But there is also a smaller choir consisting only of students in Classics. On their repertoire, there is one song in Ancient Greek. Almost thirty years later, its lyrics fit perfectly to a TEDActive stage in Palm Springs, California. I have nothing to add to that.
Ὅσον ζῇς φαίνου - μηδὲν ὅλως σὺ λυποῦ - πρὸς ὀλίγον ἐστὶ τὸ ζῆν - τὸ τέλος ὁ xρόνος ἀπαιτεῖ.