On Forgetting Meaning and the Rosetta Stone

Steven Laffoley writes that the Rosetta
Stone is a reminder that meaning can be forgotten if we misuse words to
obfuscate. We blur meaning and we forget how we got to such a place. He
recalled this during a family visit to the Rosetta Stone at the British

we are today
in the midst
of a similar
shift in word
meanings and,
consequently, a
similar shift in
–Steven Laffoley

Steven Laffoley reminds us that the Rosetta Stone is a key not only to our most basic cultural understanding, it is a monument to our forgetfulness. When we use words carelessly, or worse, when we change the meaning of words to obfuscate, we risk losing the meaning of the words altogether. In time, we forget. Then we adapt to the new definition and our worldview changes.

It’s an insidious process; it slips upon us, so we may not even be aware it’s happening. Laffoley pondered this as he visited the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum with his family. Freedom, democracy, God–all are being re-defined today. This makes the meaning that is being shaped by the culture wars even more important. What’s at stake is how we will view the world; how we will live by the values, practices, and beliefs that are called “culture,” and that inform our lives in the world.

Are we engaged in a process of forgetting? When “occupation” is called “liberation,” he says, we are. To remain silent in the face of this onslaught is to assure that we forget, and regress.

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