Finding the Rosetta Stone ~ communicating and miscommunicating

 Finding the Rosetta Stone ~ communicating and miscommunicating


I’ve been silent here for a few weeks. Part of this is because both work and personal life have been stressful and fatiguing, but part of it is because I felt as though I’d somehow not measured up. I felt as though I’d not managed to convey what was in my mind in such a way that meant it was understood easily. Words are sometimes imperfect messengers; one can use too many or too few and often use the wrong ones, or the right ones in the wrong way.

I felt frustrated by my own inexpertise.

So, I shut up.

About time too, perhaps some might think. Who do I think I am, to be sharing my thoughts with all and sundry?

But it did set me thinking about what could make communicating easier and clearer. About what might scotch the misunderstandings that lead to fights between loved ones and even between nations. And what changes I might need to make to make my own attempts at dialogue with the world better.

I wrestled with metaphors as a hunter might wrestle with bears or crocodiles and inevitably came off the worst.

So I stayed silent.

London was quiet this weekend, and it meant for the first time I could get close to this statue I’d never managed to photograph before without someone else being in the photo:


I stared for some minutes and remembered a poem I’d always loved:



I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

As Shelley wrote this poem, no one could read hieroglyphs, and no one knew the names of the Pharoahs so guesses were made to give names to the statues etc. At the same time, diligent work was being done to decipher this strange writing. By 1822, enough progress had been made to begin to read ancient Egyptian and find the true names of the lost kings of the old kingdoms. The key to understanding was this inscription: which was written in three languages. The same words, using different letters in different languages. It revolutionised the study of ancient Egypt. It was the missing piece of the puzzle.

So what is the missing piece in my problem? What would make communicating difficult, nebulous, mystical concepts easier? What would make sharing the contents of my psyche and soul clearer?

I think I may know the answer.





13 thoughts on “Finding the Rosetta Stone ~ communicating and miscommunicating

  1. I love that verse – my adoration of Keats does not blind me to the genius of Shelley for the perfect communication of a lesson to tyrants everywhere…

    I do think you can only really share those deep thoughts with someone whose psyche and soul are on roughly the same wavelength, otherwise they may understand the words but miss the deeper meaning. Had a discussion with my beloved OH this morning regarding money. He sees life as a spreadsheet, I see it as a shared view of how we live and what is important to us. He tries hard to see the other point of view, and I would love to be more accounts oriented. However hard we try our minds will never meet.

    Great post. Love to hear what works for you!


  2. “Ozymandias” is an old favourite. As for the Rosetta Stone, I’m still looking for the key to my own version of the puzzle you put forth at the beginning of this post. Even when people share the same language, they don’t always share the same interpretations. There is always room for misunderstanding. Even when we choose the right words and present our ideas in the clearest way possible. It’s always interesting to hand a piece of writing out to several different people, then listen to all their different ways of interpreting a single paragraph. Great post.


    • Thank you.
      I often think that Shaw’s comment about Americans and the English being two peoples divided by a common language is extendable to others…


  3. I hope you do know the answer.
    You will write your messages in three languages – I hope not as I am lost in one 🙂
    Maybe some music or art on the horizon?
    I am glad for you, whatever it is.
    Your post made me realize why I love the music of Jaco Pastorus so much- it communicates something no one else has even scratched the surface of for me.


  4. Ozymandias is a mangling of the personal or nesw bty name of Rameses II, User-maat-re Setep-en-re. The sonnet was written as a competition with Shelley’s friend, Horace Smith, which may be found which I also like on its own merits. It’s closer to the classic form of a sonnet, whereas Shelley takes liberties. Comparison of both is a form of communication too, because it enables one to see how two people both perceived the same subject matter… and Smith’s whimsical glance into a far future where London has become as the civilisation of Rameses was to his eyes is something I enjoy. But if I may leap forward 200 years from the poetry, as regards communication, I’d go with Yoda. Trust your feelings. You know them to be true.


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