“…at the most a comma is a poor period that lets you stop and take a breath but if you want to take a breath you ought to know yourself that you want to take a breath.”
— Gertrude Stein, ‘On Punctuation’
It is 3:30 in the morning in Central America, as I Write Here Write Now in Manila at 4:30 in the afternoon, no trace of the blue comet in the sky and save for a few scaremongerer’s woes and a few lunatic antics, the Apocalypse may prove yet to be just another crazy, passing story.
Oh but if the world ended today, I would have had a fun last night — a fun last day spent with friends celebrating life rather than fearing death or “The End.” It was a fifteen-hour party, starting with lunch, reconnecting with friends from long ago (a year or two without meaningful contact) and far away (from New York) and ending with more-than-enough drinks and some dancing at a happening bar, a perfect place to have been caught in on doomsday (it’s called Rocket Room).
Two kinds of people emerged on doomsday: The ones who chose life and the ones who chose death. To me, death was the choice of the preppers and the paranoids: They lived what would have been their last day on earth centered on fear and annihilation. The other kind, the ones I chose to spend what would have been the last few hours of my earthly life with, chose to live, as if there was no end: Who cares about tomorrow, which may never come, as it never did, as it probably never would, at least not with its apocalyptic scenarios, when you have every power to be happy, free from fear, free from worry, free from any concept of doom, today?
It’s only 3:35 in the morning in places like Guatemala, the Yucatan Peninsula, the Chiapas Highlands, Belize, or El Salvador, where the Maya Civilization once reigned, and who knows what the dawn of this new day would bring them and the rest of us in the world?
But here, at 4:48 in the afternoon in Manila, half a world away, I am writing down my thoughts, egged on somewhat by Gertrude Stein and her very unhappy thoughts about punctuation marks, of which she only had respect for the period, “The End.” Maybe she knew better than I ever would, but right now, thank you very much: I duel with the semi-colons and, occasionally, the colons, but I love my commas and my em-dashes and my question marks, even my parentheses, where they insert my little thoughts into my big thoughts, leaving it up to the reader to decide whether or not to mind the little ones.
So I will use punctuation when I express myself in writing, such as later, when I wrap my Christmas gifts and attach to them little notes that bring warm wishes, glad tidings, and, more important, my hopes and dreams for each of the recipients in the future that’s right there, just beyond 12-21-12, waiting to unfold with possibility and surprises. I can’t tell what’s to happen so for most, such as you, dear reader, I guess all I can say for now is Happy 2013 (and may you always find time for dancing)!
- Writers beware: Em dashes are overused and misunderstood (prdaily.com)