Love is the essence of being and therefore, the essence of interpretation. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8 , English Standard Version). Love lasts beyond interpretation in the actions of those we love.
At our core, interpreters love: this love of nature, love of history, love of people, love of adventure, and love of place touches everything we do. It is the Golden Rule, the respectful workplace, the “Leave No Trace” principles, the humbling of beauty, the commitment to a cause, the passion and enthusiasm. So paramount is love that Tilden describes it as “The Priceless Ingredient.” To be an interpreter, we must be in love. Tilden writes that,
If you love the thing you interpret, and love the people who come to enjoy it, you need commit nothing to memory. For, if you love the thing, you not only have taken the pains to understand it to the limit of your capacity, but you also feel its special beauty in the general richness of life’s beauty…. You are to love people in the sense that you never cease trying to understand them and to realize that whatever faults they have, whatever levity, whatever ignorance, they are not peculiar (1977, p. 90).
In so doing, an interpreter conveys contagious enthusiasm and purposeful passion leading to our own personal and professional credibility as well as our own individual style. This style, communicated through the universal language of love, transforms something foreign into something familiar thereby opening hearts and minds to change.
Cultivating intimacy can be accomplished by story! Story is only as powerful, however, as the relevance it has in our lives- “whatever simultaneously connects to something relevant and meaningful to your listeners and gives them a taste of who you are, works” (Simmons, 2006, p. 6). Because story has meaning, it engages us on a personal level. Ultimately, the story creates a life of its own and becomes the listener’s story as much as our own. Simmons writes that “story is as close as you can get to taking someone else for a walk in your shoes” (2006, p. 44). Similarly, Tilden writes that a storyteller “will find that his hearers are walking along with him- are companions on the march. At some certain point, it becomes their story as much as his” (1977, p. 31). This ownership provides empowerment for listeners and credibility for the story teller- both critical ingredients to successful training. Combined, professional growth results.
To change the world and to affect professional climate change, interpretative messages and adult learning opportunities must live eternal. They must go beyond a day with a nature guide “and give a landmark to his mental horizon that will stand out through life” (Mills, 1990, p. 130). And, because we live in an age saturated with technology and information, we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough and to be in love enough that we are able to adapt and evolve with our audience’s needs. Without providing a safe, non judgmental environment and without modeling our own vulnerability, inspiration and excellence become unattainable.
Whether the goal of interpretation is protection, preservation, or stewardship, and whether the goal of the interpretive trainer is professional growth, inspiration, or success, hopefully, the end result will surpass our individual human experiences and last because it exists at a level apart from the material world. By loving ourselves and our craft; by embracing positive psychology through vulnerability and change; and by instilling interpretive principles into professional development, we can surpass mere human experience and create opportunities for self-discovery, for growth.
I believe that interpretation, through love, can lead to enlightenment; a higher, celestial place, both personally and professionally; and our harmonious collective consciousness.
Brown, B. (2012). Daring Greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York: Gotham Books.
Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2008). Made to Stick: Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck (Revised ed.). London: Arrow Books.
Mills, E. (1990). Adventures of a Nature Guide. Friendship, WI: New Pass Press.
Simmons, A. (2006). The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence, and Persuasion Through the Art of Storytelling (Revised ed.). New York: Basic Books.
Tilden, F. (1977). Interpreting Our Heritage (3rd ed.). Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.