Sunday, July 02, 2006

In Praise of the Humble Comma

As weird as it sounds to non-writing people, I have been thinking about punctuation a great deal lately. The source of my pondering flows from a four-page essay by Pico Iyer titled “In Praise of the Humble Comma.”

Iyer writes that punctuation “scores the music in our mind, gets our thoughts moving to the rhythm of our hearts.”

As I was teaching my young tutee, Taegong Ha, about punctuation, we read this essay together. Because he plays the flute, I watched him mull over the comparison of punctuation marks to musical notation and visualize in his mind the ideas that Iyer expresses in this essay.

“Punctuation is the notation in the sheet music of our words, telling us where to rest, or when to raise our voice; it acknowledges that the meaning of our discourse, as of any symphonic composition, lies not in the units but in the pauses, the pacing and the phrasing. Punctuation is the way one bats one’s eyes, lowers one’s voice or blushes demurely. Punctuation adjusts the tone and color and volume till the feeling comes into perfect focus, not disgust exactly, but distaste; not lust, or like, but love.”

Punctuation is a bit like the adjustments I make on my camera when I want to shoot in low light, sunlight, or shadows. I adjust the setting to create a mood of passion, suspense, dark humor or gay abandon.

As the years pass, subtle exclamations and faint brush strokes of expression call my name and dazzle my imagination. The swish of the humble comma on the page, the measured breath of the flutist on an exhale, or the shutter speed and f stop I select to create the mood of an image are among my circle of intimate companions.

”Thus all these tiny scratches give us breadth and heft and depth.”

Thanks Pico Iyer.

About Me

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What do I do? That’s a question with more depth than the deceiving three-word construction would lead us to believe.

I live on planet earth with other folks, and I’m involved in the field of education and learning. I’m a life-long learner with a passion for knowledge and the process of bending bits of ideas into new constructions of beauty.