It's almost Christmas, and, therefore, the past month or more has seen the annual deluge of diamond store commercials. Zales, Gordons, Kay, and any number of local stores, in seeking to up their holiday sales, seemingly spend most of their advertising budget between December and February (a wise decision, I'm sure, especially this year with such movies coming out).
I myself considered purchasing an anniversary band for Amy (it was just our 7th!), as a new Zales outlet opened right by our local Wegman's. There was one I liked, and I know Amy would like, but the Zales saleswoman would not accept this fact—I of course needed to purchase a ring with three stones, "which symbolize our love in the past, present, and future." After I unstuck my eyes from the position into which they had rolled, I said thanks and left.
Besides the "past, present and future" collection, it seems that the rage this Christmas are "journey" collections. These necklaces feature different sized diamonds, growing from small to large—to symbolize the journey love takes as it grows.
These designs are curious to me. Do people allow diamond companies to designate symbols for their lives? Can a corporation really succeed in designating such "illustrative symbolism" into a common symbol system? And, can this corporation expect that the interpretant of its symbol really understand what was intended?
I suppose that last question's answer is, yes, largely, since viewers of commercials are told in that interaction exactly what to understand the symbol as—no abductive thinking there. But, will these necklaces be understood in five years? Ten? If not, then the sign has failed. Do these ads work, though, I wonder?
Two ideas come to mind: the first, that they do not work, and, that people like myself gag when thinking about them. But, if that were the case, they probably wouldn't continue to run them. The second is that they do, but that leaves my to wonder, Why? Are we so sign-starved as a culture that we need diamond commercials to give us more? And, why cannot a couple determine their own sign? Part of sign creation is bound up in the relationship of the sign giver and its interpretant—who has a greater relationship than a romantic couple?
I suppose, though, if movies are any indicator, people really can't interpret signs without explicit explanations given. I don't necessarily agree with that, but that does seem to be how this culture is understood. That brings me to a more important point, and that is, that Christian worship is largely made up of signs. Again I wonder, can people interpret the signs that occur during a celebration of the Eucharist? Can they interpret what happens at baptism? At Easter Vigil? I think so, with little prodding.
Those who have a relationship with the Church and with God should be able to interpret what happens in church during the worship of God. But, maybe the Church should take out television advertisements to run every commercial segment explaining the meaning of thuribles, of bread made from wheat, and of water. That of course would leave congregants free from thinking, and then they could focus only on their feelings about God.