Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"We Live With Nature"

The picture above is of a tire cover on a Japanese vehicle. It's a little hard to read so I'll type out the text here:

"A long time ago before human was born, there was only woods, grass, animals, birds and fish. When human was born, they helped the newly born baby, offering their bodies. Grass and animals became human's clothings, and then, they protected them from the rain, wind and cold. Winds and grass gave him their fruits, nuts and grains. Animals, birds and fish became human's food, and they grew him up. We will never forget their favors. We never live without nature. 'cause we live with nature."

This is not only a good example of some of the typical errors the Japanese make in Japanese to English translation but points out a very interesting (and somewhat odd) perspective on the food chain.

The author of this passage was either holding his tongue firmly in his or her cheek while writing or believes that nature really wants to make sure man survives. I wonder if it is an off-shoot of shinto beliefs to imply intent in the "sacrifices" that animals, plants, etc. make in order to "nurture" man. Since shintoism includes the belief that a "spiritual essence" resides in all things.

It struck me as relatively quaint as well as reflecting a notion that man is somehow elevated above other living creatures. Why would any living entity sacrifice itself to the survival of another species?

Of course, it could be that this is no more than a reflection of bad translating and the use of words like "offer", "help", "give" and "protect" are misleading choices. You find that translations often skew intent a fair amount and it's important never to reach conclusions without clarification.

No comments: