Matt Valler is a specialist in stories and how they shape the way we live. With a wide range of expertise and experience, Matt has worked with organisations all over the world on strategy, communications, and product design. He holds an MA (distinction) in Biblical Interpretation and is currently studying for a PhD in Translation Studies at Queen’s University, Belfast.
Jikes! About Matt Valler? This is the most difficult question of all: Who Am I? What can be said about me? Who is saying it with these words? Matt Valler is unsure about writing about himself in the third person.
I’m a translator. (I used to add, “of sorts”, but I’ve upgraded.) Not the linguistic kind, but the difficult-to-define kind. I care a lot. Some people amble through and lighten the way, but I don’t. I invest intense emotion and attention in the world as I find it, sometimes for good, sometimes not. For better or worse it has produced in me a translational sensibility. I help people understand each other, and I notice the ways that something in one place crops up somewhere else, in different clothes and with a different name, transformed.
I’m an academic. And an entrepreneur, of sorts. (I didn’t used to add, “of sorts”, but I’ve downgraded.) Not the successful, build-a-business kind, but the relentlessly innovating kind. I’ve run my own business for over 10 years, but it’s stayed small. I’ve worked all over the world, and found that the familiar can be very unfamiliar and the far away is often closer to home than we think. I specialise in stories and the material movements that make them. I’ve mastered the arts of pragmatic project management, but my energy comes from seeing the world a different way – and helping others do the same.
Matt Valler grew up Christian, and became an expert, of sorts, in the Bible, Christian theology and practice, and their changing relationships with changing cultures. He’s tried to write about it in the first person, but the problem of writing about a tradition steeped in Millennia of vast and varied cultural histories and how that intersects with individual belief, psychology, identity, etc., is that almost everything is lost in translation. For a long time (about 15 years) Matt worked as an insider-outsider with Christian groups and organisations, trying to develop new approaches to faith and practice that… what was he aiming for again?
The increasing difficulty of answering that question led to a new chapter in my life. In 2016, I moved to Cornwall, in the far south-west of the UK, an ancient kingdom colonised long ago by the English. It was a watershed year, a threshold over which I became someone new. A translator. An academic and an entrepreneur, of sorts. An educator. A gardener. I have grown with the trees, changed with the seasons, felt the furies of the winds, and open my eyes to the wide skies. Seven years on, I am both profoundly lost and more at home.
My academic work on translation includes the study of identity. On what basis do we name anything? What are the borders of Matt Valler? What is his essence? Is it his history? His form? His DNA code? The traces of his effects? An “About” page is absurd. And yet it matters to me.
I have become convinced that nothing can be understood without its entanglements. I’d like to feel more stable, to have a good story, to list my achievements, and the people and places that signify “me”. But I am a roiling sea, a slow cloud on a summer’s night, a passionate kiss, a fleeting song. I come and go, among many others.
“What the blazes??” “Just tell us who you are, mate!”
Well I’m the sort of person who writes this sort of About page. I’m constantly trying to translate myself, and in doing so I’ve become more and more aware of the ways I’m being translated that are well outside my control. And you can be confident I’ll be curious about you and your world.
Thanks for reading.
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