Level 3 - Talker
Join Date: May 2006
I'm not sure if this has been mentioned before, but there is another aspect to this song's title that I don't see any discussion of.
Yes, the Rosetta Stone was an important key to unlock the secrets of an ancient civilization. Yes, "Stoned" conjures up images of drugs, especially given the LSD references throughout tracks 7 and 8.
But "Stoned" has another meaning. That is, the act of being stoned to death (having rocks thrown at you until you die). Stoning was a form of execution for many centuries, including ancient times and early Christian times. During the early history of the Christians, there are many stories of martyrs being stoned for preaching about Jesus.
Stoning was often a punishment for those trying to bring a "message of hope to those who choose to hear it." Whether they are Christians or witches or anything else, if the public didn't like what a certain person was teaching/preaching/doing, these people could end up being stoned to death.
Stoning was also used as a punishment for common criminals. Recall the story in the New Testament about the woman about to be stoned for being a whore.
In Rosetta Stoned we have a character who believes he is "the one." He has an all-important message to deliver. He wants to be like the character in Eulogy, "someone above the crowd" with a voice that's "strong and loud." He thinks he is a messiah of sorts.
But he forgot his pen. He can't preach his message because he doesn't even know what it is. He can't even rise above the crowd. He's stuck knowing that he's the one, that he needs to deliver an urgent message, that his lucky day finally came. But only he knows this. No one else believes him. He begs to be believed, but knows his story sounds ridiculous.
Metaphorically, by not believing him, his listeners are "stoning" him. He feels like a martyr. He has the true message, the true experience, the important knowledge. But no one will believe him, or try to help him figure out what the aliens wanted to say. His experience is mocked and his possible message is ignored.
This sad character doesn't even get the honor of being crucified for his message, the way the Eulogy character is. He is ignored like a common crazy, a loser with a wild imagination on a bad trip. The public shuns him, metaphorically stoning him for his beliefs. He becomes a martyr in his own eyes, unjustly accused.
We cannot help but listen to this song and think of it as nothing more than a bad trip. There are many layers of meaning, certainly, but I think anyone who listens to it thinks, at least once, "This is a hilarious tale of a pathetic guy on a bad trip." Each time we laugh at "but I forgot my pen," we throw a metaphoric stone at the character. People only throw stones at others if they believe these others to be inferior and deserving of punishment. The character is presented in such a way that we can't help but feel superior, and laugh at him.
This is exactly what we're supposed to do. Every listener takes on the role of the doctor, trying to figure out what the character is rambling about. Anyone's common sense first diagnosis would be a bad acid trip. In fact, the only reason we look deeper is because it's a Tool song, and we're used to digging for meaning in Tool songs. The doctor, presumably, is not being treated to a musical performance in Exam Room 3. He's just hearing the incoherent babbling of the character. If someone came up to you on the street and said the lyrics as a story, you would laugh and walk away.
At the same time, the character is presented sympathetically enough to make us wonder, "What if he's telling the truth? What if it wasn't drugs at all?" Then we start to search for real meaning in the story, to figure out the significance of this character's experience.
The song involves the listener very personally. We are placed in the role of the doctor, the judge of what this character has to say. We are almost forced to stone the character with laughter and derision, to reinforce his idea of himself as a martyr. We do this precisely because we assume he was stoned on drugs, and therefore not worth listening to. But we, unlike the doctor, are given the story in the context of a musical epic that makes us consider the possibility that the character's experience might actually be a key to great secrets.
It is this balancing of serious themes and comedy, told in such a way that involves us all personally, that makes the story so interesting and brilliant. I think there are many other important layers to this song besides what I have described here, but I am only just starting to scratch the surface as I listen.