If you’ve seen the 2002 movie SIGNS by M. Night Shyamalan; starring Mel Gibson (Reverend Graham Hess), Joaquin Phoenix (Merrill Hess) Rory Culkin (Morgan Hess) and, Abigail Breslin (Bo Hess) you know they realize the importance of four signs before the film’s end.
• a parting message from a dying wife to her husband to see,
• a child with an inhaler indicating a chronic illness,
• another child with a habit of wasting water,
• and a brother who is a washed-up athlete who must swing away.
Graham Hess’ wife dies in a car crash. He believes her last words were gibberish. He leaves the church and puts the family at the center of his life.
The fact that Graham has lost his faith allows him to be under no illusion that a god exists. Ironically, this proves to be his saving grace.
Although SIGNS was a Hollywood blockbuster, its message is far from fiction.
In the movie, as in our lives, when signs appear after seemingly random events and activities they give our lives direction.
In society, however, we look to authority figures to interpret signs and determine meaning for us.
Unfortunately, those signs and their assigned meaning have an origin in cultural icons that are no longer relevant to most of us. For emphasis, consider this slice of history.
The Nok (Nigerians) discovered, in 35000 (BCE) Base 7 Mathematics for each 7-day moon phase per quarter. It was modern humans earliest attempt at the social construct of time. There’s evidence of an early calendar stick with 29 distinct carvings in the bone of a baboon found in Swaziland.
In the Greek and Roman empire weekdays, planets, the sun, and moon were named after gods.
Sunday (Sun Day) Dimanche; Latin *diēs Solis (day of Sun) ancient cultures worshiped the sun.
Monday (Moon Day) Lundi; Latin *Lūnae dīēs (day of the moon)
Tuesday (Mars Day) Mardi; Latin Martis diēs (day of Mars) Tiw’s day.
Wednesday (Mercury Day) Mercredi; Latin Mercuriī diēs, (day of Mercury).
Thursday (Jupiter Day) Jeudi; Latin *Jovis diēs (day of Jovis) Thor’s Day. Zeus (ancient Greek).
Friday (Venus Day) Vendredi; Latin *Veneris diēs (day of Venus)
Saturday (Saturn Day) Samedi; Latin *sambatum and *sambati diēs (day of Sabbath) Originally known as (day of Saturn) and Cronus who was the father of Zeus.
The Gregorian (Western/Christian) calendar week is made up of 7 days. U.S and Canada begin the week on Sunday. Adopted in 1752. Western civilization’s Christian origin belie the days of the week. Instead, the days reveal polytheistic pagan roots.
Most may not be surprised by this trivia. I wasn’t aware until my high school French class.
The French teacher translated the weekdays and provided the etymology of each word.
Great Alma mater. It’s currently #68 in the national ranking.
But, I digress.
I’ve had a love affair with words since I learned to read when I was 2-years-old. Except, I didn’t know, until my French teacher revealed, words are part of the hidden world called semiotics.
Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation.
We may believe we think for ourselves. If we don’t interpret the signs, however, then we’re not.
But wait, I’m ahead of myself.
In the beginning, there was logos. Logos here refers to inner thought.
We conceptualize first then we attempt to share that thought via a sign.
Inner thought can become a sign. An icon, index or symbol is a sign.
a sign is a stimulus pattern that has a meaning.
- A sign can be a word symbol or non-word symbol.
- It can also be a physical representation such as a photo (Icon).
- Sign can be indices that represent a causal relation or correlation between two objects. Objects determined by the senses such as if there’s smoke then fire is near.
A system of signs makes up our current reality. Social constructs come from that system.
Natural signs are important since we are nature.
Everything else is up to personal interpretation.
Many of us lose our direction when the most powerful in our society assign meaning to events and activities that benefit them but are irrelevant to our lives.
Case-in-point. We continue to refer to the days and planets by the names of ancient Rome’s mythological gods. We worship these gods by invoking their names at least once a week as if society agreed to practice pagan polytheism.
If you paused, then you understand the power we give to some signs in our culture.
Should we create mental space for every sign? Should we assign importance to signs that have no value or meaning to our lives?
Is it necessary to change the names of the weekdays as if we are going through each state in the U.S. removing icons of the Confederacy.
Or should we do a mental reevaluation of the power we assign to concepts that are insignificant to our lives?
If you’re unsure about the answer, know that not every culture subscribes to the West’s secular calendar and its exaltation to gods.
Cultures, such as those of Hebrew descent, had a tumultuous past with both the Greeks and Romans.
So, do you think they would have a calendar that mentions a Roman god once a week?
Acknowledging Roman gods or any god would go against their belief of a G-d. It would likely produce mental discomfort. Like picking at a scab of an open wound.
In SIGNS, Graham renounced his faith for the same reason. The meaning society assigned to god was no longer of use to him.
Graham assigned his own meaning to a Higher Consciousness after doing battle with the alien life form that descended upon the earth.
“An asthma attack, half-filled glasses of water, See, Swing away, Merrill” also held life-changing meanings for the Hess family.
No matter if you believe destiny, fate, or free will governs life, you must do as Graham did and see for yourself.
The signs will guide you. If you apply the meaning that comes from within.
Watch for the signs
That lead in the right direction
Not to heed them is a bad reflection
They’ll show you the way
Into what you have been seeking
To ignore them you’re only cheating
~ performed by Earth, Wind & Fire. Written by Bernard “Beloyd” Taylor and Peter Cor Belenky