A cloud is a mass of water droplets. But it is also something else – it is an indication of the future. Depending on its colour, we can look at a cloud and come to the conclusion that it will rain.
A cloud becomes a ‘sign’ which produces a response in the human mind. This process is known through the discipline of Semiotics. Signs are all around us. One of the latest is the ‘hoodie,’ and the automatic response that that teenager might be trouble.
Signs exist in the physical environment and are the bedrock of culture. They can vary from the ‘sign’ of the Cross to the automatic loathing of words such as Nazi. Signs have controlled who we are from the moment we became human.
Signs have been realized today in the power of the ‘symbol.’ Political spin and the publicity hungry celebrity culture are classic examples. It is signs like these that fuel the trivia-based lifestyle many people lead today. Yet these are shallow signs with little meaning behind them. Hence, they are fleeting.
Signs are in all areas of life, constantly adjusting our attitude and behaviour. And with their existence it is difficult to accept the idea of the individual. For if the individual is constantly re-modelled by the signs he perceives, how can he be totally his own person?
We believe we are individuals because we have the ‘sign’ that the individual exists. But consider the label on a soup can. It is so fundamental that it makes you salivate. You trust it is telling the true. But it could be a can of worms. Signs, you see, can lie.
© Anthony North, April 2007