On the highways and byways of America you find billboards. The huge signs seem to proliferate more here than in any other country that I have seen. As you come into the city you find the billboard have been replaced by giant screens – every changing, their bright lights telling a story for anyone caring to listen. Billboards were the king of the signs in an era since past, yet the role of signage in society continues to play an important role.
Yet certain signs are confusing. I wonder where Rehoboth Spa originated. What about Dick Shea’s Barefootin’ Dance Studio? There is no obvious entrance and you cannot read the sign without turning your head (the sign appears to be too big for the wall on which it is mounted so they just turned it sideways. It is very hard to read!) It’s confusing when you begin to seriously look. Maybe nobody really reads the signs. Maybe they are just there for show. Is anybody expected to read?
But people read, listening with their eyes, reflecting on what is going on around their journey. The processed has continued for ages. Even as Jesus was crucified, the sign put about his head was easily visible. In fact, “many of the Jews read the sign because the place where Jesus was crucified was right next to the city. It was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.” (John 19.20)
As I walk the streets of New York I find myself catching a glimpse of eight million billboards. Sure they move, are often confusing, and at times tell an unusual story, but the lives of the people in this community are talking. Watch how someone walks, there is a hint of the plot. Reflect on the messages which paint themselves, if only for an instant, in the eyes and on the cheeks. There is truth on display, even as we try to hide it. Listen to the music of their voices, the journey is out in the open far more than anyone realizes.
What do your signs say today?
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