Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Advent: Sign

Over the years, departments of Transportation have seen the benefit in adopting universal symbols for street signs. That way, even if you don't know the local language, you'll still recognize the yellow triangle that means yield, the red octagon that means stop, and the wavy lines under the car mean that you soon will drive on bacon.

Signs can be extremely helpful to read, but of course not all signs are as obvious as road signs. Fatigue, fever and general aches are all signs of flu, dengue fever, West Nile virus and bubonic plague. A sore jaw may be a sign of a toothache, tension, or a heart attack. A red dawn could be a sign of rain, or it could be a sign that it's just going to be a nice day.

To understand a sign properly, you've to understand it in the larger context of all the other signs. If that fever is accompanied by mosquito bites and you live in the tropics, dengue fever is more likely than it is in New England. If you also feel like you've been beaten with a baseball bat and you're afraid you won't die, the diagnosis is even easier to make.

Right now I think we're all reading the signs anxiously. A Russian ambassador was just assassinated; an apparent terror attack in Germany left 12 dead and many others injured. Trump, elected on the strengths of our fears, says and does things that have milions of us eyeing the next four years nervously.

Know the times by the signs, they say. That's also a good way to know your neighbors by the signs they give. What do the signs say to you?

Copyright © 2016 by David Learn. Used with permission.

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