Back in 1971 the Five Man Electrical Band sang about signs. The opening verse declared, “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign. Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind. Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?” Looking out my window today I see signs of tagging around what we now call the old Cobourg West High School. I have no idea what the tag is supposed to say, but it look like there’s a halo over one of the letters. Small tags like that go up rather quickly.
The urban dictionary – which I didn’t realize existed until I tried to find a definition of tagging says – “Much like, but not to be confused with graffiti. Tagging is signing your name or other representation of yourself in a public place”. Driving back from Stratford on the holiday Monday last week we passed by a huge tag on a sound barrier wall between the 401 and houses on the other side of the fence. Tagging is against the law and it made me wonder how in the world someone could spend that much time tagging their name on a wall and not be caught. Whoever left the tag certainly made a mark for themselves – even though many taggers are unknown – along that portion of the 401.
While we may not know why people tag, we do know this. Built inside each one of us is a desire to make some kind of a mark on the world. We want to catch the attention of those around us. Statements are made by the way we dress, what we say, what we do and even how we interact with others just to mention a few. I once preached a message called “It’s In The Dash” talking about legacy. How will people remember us after we’re gone? Life is lived in the dash between our date of birth and date of death. For many years I’ve told my wife I want the words of Acts 13:36 on my headstone which say, “When he served God’s purpose in his own generation, he was buried with his ancestors”.
Even in death, we leave some kind of tag. On the headstone of a man named John Yeast it says, “Here lies John Yeast. Pardon me for not rising”. George Johnson was not a famous person. His only claim to fame is his apologetic epitaph. Johnson bought a stolen horse in good faith but the court did not believe his story and sentenced him to hang. They later realized their mistake but by then it was too late. His headstone reads, “Here lies George Johnson, hanged by mistake in 1882. He was right, we was wrong, but we strung him up and now he’s gone”. The inscription on the headstone of Winston Churchill reads, “I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter”.
Signs tell a story. They give direction and provide information. Like the song says, “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign”. While there are signs around us telling us what to do, have you ever considered writing a sign of your own? The same Five Man Electrical Band song ends with a verse talking about going to church. “And the sign said, ‘Everybody welcome, come in, kneel down and pray’. But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all, I didn’t have a penny to pay. So I got me a pen and paper and I made up my own little sign I said, ‘Thank you Lord for thinkin’ ‘bout me, I’m alive and doin’ fine’”.
I know it’s going to sound cliché but I want to finish by asking you a question – “What’s your sign?”
Looking Out My Window is a regular column in the Northumberland Today newspaper located in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada.