online: 1 april 2003
modified: 2 and 4 april 2003

28 march 2003 what is communication?

14:57 The hazy cloud reaches to ground level today all over London. Here, at Kenwood, there is mist between me and the upper parts of the trees. The shrubs are nearly all in leaf. The pigeons look well fed - as do the people. I can smell someone's body perfume. A squirrel creeps near to eat some bread that people nearby threw to the pigeons.

I am enjoying a restful lunch after speaking two of these diary entries on the radio*. It was easy to do but nevertheless cost some preparatory effort. Whatever one thinks, the knowledge that many people, unseen and unknown, may be listening changes what one says and how one says it - 'to many'. And I enjoyed broadcasting it, as I enjoy writing this in a digitised form that can be read from anywhere as soon as I transfer it to my website. Yes this little screen is indeed a 'public writing place' and I'm glad to have lived to experience this extension of public life. I like it very much.

But there is a mystery in writing and speaking in public - audible or visible to people unseen and unknown: how does one know what to say in ignorance of what those readers and listeners may be thinking? I imagine that the assumptions we make, in order to overcome that ignorance (and any accompanying fear, or arrogance, or other such reaction to lack of feedback)... (and now I'm losing the thread of this sentence!)**

...I imagine that such self-assuring assumptions or attitudes are likely to be mistaken. But we, and the organisers of broadcasting and publishing, may be unaware of this mistake and nevertheless may enjoy the experience - as I am doing now. But if I knew the actual thoughts of whoever reads this would I be able to continue?

I'd like to mention here a thought, or theory, that I find useful when writing, broadcasting, or otherwise 'communicating with others': instead of imagining information or messages being transmitted *outwards* from one to many, I think of the published page, or the microphone, or the camera, as means whereby other people, unknown, can project their gaze or hearing *inwards* so as to observe and hear what the writers or broadcasters are DOING as they write or speak or act in the apparent vacuum of a blank page or a studio or any place in which one can be seen or heard from a distance.

After getting that thought into words I sit back with some relief and pleasure - for it is one of my main learnings and I don't think I've succeeded in writing it before... Yes, I feel that this is a notable note, a reminder of something I value - and perhaps it is of value to the invisible and inaudible others who may read it?

That took a long time to write and now I feel like walking. As I get ready to go I listen to a bird (a thrush or a blackbird perhaps) that is broadcasting its song (its thoughts, if I can call bird song that) not only to unseen birds but to me and other species. But, according this idea (my reversal of the theory that communication is from sender to receiver) the bird is not singing or sending a message - it is making sounds to which others are attending (and interpreting, perhaps)... the sound travels from bird to listener but the attention, the human or spiritual part, travels from listener to bird!

The bird continues and I do not understand what the sounds it makes may signify to other birds. But I do know that the bird is ignorant of these thoughts of what its song signifies to me! None of us know how our thoughts and actions are interpreted - we just have to take the risk of saying, writing or doing what we do. That is the joy of it, the freedom, the unknown.

*Weekly broadcasts, from the London art pub, The Foundry, on Resonance FM, between 12.00 and 13.00 Greenwich Mean Time on Fridays. My readings from the digital diary happen every other week.

For details of Resonance FM, and of how to hear the broadcasts anywhere in the world via the internet, visit

**Looking back, I imagine that I lost the thread of that sentence because I was not writing of my immediate circumstance (regardless of readers) but attempting to remember and to transmit a pre-conceived message (about the unwisdom of trying to transmit messages!)... Yes, apart from the first paragraph, writing this piece was slow and difficult - and I've had to ammend it considerably. Hm.

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© 2003 john chris jones

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