Warning — spontaneous combustion may occur

in GEMS3 years ago

Warning — spontaneous combustion may occur

original photos and writing
. . . by @d-pend . . .





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Everything is a sign for something. It just so happens that most things are not painted with fluorescent letters boldly declaring what they represent. Still, they are inscribed with some kind of message for the attentive; and most happy are they who read the surfaces a little, but not too much. Alas for the over- and the under-readers, they both suffer from the affliction of eventually going mute.

Some signs are newly minted and shimmer or dull according to the sun's tyrannical moods; others are splattered with life's evidence and smirk at the squints of passerby. Some surfaces are painted with large letters that declare exactly the opposite of what they really are, apparently preferring a zenlike method of self-definition. Others, romantic with crypticness, are etched in archaic code, their letter-edges distorting and peeling away, their creator perhaps having passed and forgotten to leave the cipher in their will to be bequeathed to a curious future full of nosy onlookers.

Some signs gesture for caution or fear in such a saccharine manner than one positively cannot wait to trespass whatever bounds they set; others attempt to conjure glee in the most deathlike fashion. Still others are the worst of all and are simply boring.

Signs often begin with the lofty idealism of civilization, but soon decay to the most loathsome barbarism — all pantomimed hieroglyphs, vague grunts and proud laziness. All that is unimportant, though, as long as they are comfoting. Most comforting of all is when a sign resigns itself to be only a humble sign and doesn't try to get beyond itself. There is nothing more deadly than a symbolic uprising, inanimate matter transcending its bounds in the most inscrutable illogic.


Back to cautions — it is, allegedly, very important to watch for snakes. Although clothed a little shabbily, the sign who told me this was nonetheless a quite charming fellow. He seemed to imply it would be the pinnacle of courtesy to do snake-watching, since snakes aren't watching themselves, therefore, who else will watch them? I assume snakes also make signs to watch for humans for the very same reason. It all adds up.

And again, the road may flood. I am still looking for the sign that warns cars may strike pedestrians, or perhaps it may hail today, take precautions. (A foolproof method for avoiding hail, by the way, is to never, under any circumstances, go outside.) More troubling is the fact that nowhere warns meteor may enter earth's atmosphere or lightning may strike. Certainly this represents irresponsibility of egregious proportions on the part of the galactic sign-making council.

Signs tend to tell what mustn't be done; they highlight boundaries with a permanent marker. They seldom ask questions, preferring to make commands. They are imperious to a fault, which is why people take such pleasure in vandalizing them. What adolescent can resist the thought of taking black spray paint to correct the obvious mistake in the sign that says 30 MPH Speed Limit, amending the 3 to an 8?

But all these are signs of the coarsest kind; they are created simply to be put into museums in two hundred years for our descendants to point and laugh at. They are a kind of pop art, a recycled joke. The more serious humans try to become, the more comical they appear to observers. We are all clowns; we become fools in the eyes of history — and only the comedians and humorists come away with a shred of dignity, embracing and making light of our costumes and masks.


To be able to read signs, absorb the essence of their commands, and choose whether or not to act based on one's own inner reasoning is a relatively uncommon skill. Most cannot read them or choose not to, or read only as a prerequisite for blind obedience to their mandates, whether newly-commanded or mere reminders. In following commands one need not develop a conscience, one need not even take any actions, which are taken for one by commanders in the form of one's own body. It is easiest of all to simply not think about anything, only half-listening to the repetitive murmurs of common sentiment of humanity's burbling stream, which becomes as soothing as any other river once one is acclimated to its idiosyncrasies.

Arising from slumber on the banks of humanity's river, all have the capacity to be sign-makers or sign-razers. All surfaces everywhere are covered with invisible graffitti, crass murals of the most shocking diversity. Everything becomes a sign for something — most of all for itself, a beacon to attract the attention of magnetic travelers to come and see sights new and old, warning night may fall or sun will rise. And don't forget to watch for snakes. Or maybe just wait a few hundred years until the signs are all written in some other language, all pretty shapes and curves, at which one can point at and laugh, throwing all caution to the wind — embracing dissolution, transformation by redistribution of particles when spontaneous combustion may occur — that force commonly mistaken for death.

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writing and photos are original content
. . . by Daniel Pendergraft (@d-pend) . . .
created to be published on-chain April 4, 2020.

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Signs can be quite creatively informative and sometimes creative. Thanks @d-pend

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