[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next]


Apr 17, 2002 05:13 PM
by Nisk98114


The gods, they say, give breath, and they take it away. But the same could 
be said ----could it not? ---of the humble comma. Add it to the present 
clause , and, of a sudden, the mind is, quite literally, given pause to 
think; take it out if you wish or forget it and the mind is deprived of a 
resting place. Yet still the comma gets no respect. It seems just a slip of a 
thing, a pedant's tick, a blip on the edge of our conciousness, a kind of 
printer's smudge almost. Small, we claim, is beautiful (especially in the age 
of microchip). Yet what is so often used, and so rarely recalled, as thecomma 
---unless it be breath itself?
Punctuation, one is taught, has a point: to keep up law and order. 
Punctuation marks are road signs placed along the highway of our communcation 
---to control speeds, to provide directions and to prevent head-on 
collisions. A period has the unblinking finality of a red light; the comma is 
a flashing yellow light that asks us only to slow down; and the semicolon is 
a stop sign that tells us to ease gradually to a halt, before gradually 
starting up again. By establishing the relations between words, punctuations 
establishes the relations between the people using words. That may be one 
reason why schoolteachers exalt it and lovers defy it ("We love each other 
and belong to each other let's don't ever hurt each other Nicole let's don't 
ever hurt each other," wrote Gary Gilmore to his girlfriend). A comma , he 
must have known, "separates inseparables," in the clinching words of H.W. 
Fowler, King of English Usage.
--------------------break (article cont)
Punctuation , then, is a matter of care. Care for words, yes, but also, and 
more important, for what the words imply. Only a lover notices the small 
things: the way the afternoon light catches the nape of the neck, or how a 
strand of hair slips out from behind an ear , or the way a finger curls 
around a cup. And no one scans a letter so closely a s alover, searching for 
its small print, straining to hear its nuances, its gasps, its sighs and 
hesitations , poring over the secret messages that lie in every cadence. The 
difference between "Jane(whom I adore)" and "Jane, whom I adore," and the 
difference between them both and "Jane ---whom I adore ---" marks all the 
difference between ecstasy and heartache. "No iron can pierce the heart with 
such force as a period put at just the right place," in Isaac Babel's lovely 
words; a comma can let us hear a voice break, or a heart. Punctuation , in 
fact, is a labor of love. Which brings us back, in a way, to gods.
Pico Iyer(free lance writer for Time magazine)
The above is taken from a somewhat larger article of the same name.

[Back to Top]

Theosophy World: Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application