Wednesday, July 9, 2008

This Hyphen Thing

Of all the punctuation marks, the humble hyphen holds the most possibilities for multiple interpretation, or at least that's the way it appears to me. It is easy to grasp the finality of the period, or to comprehend the fascinating dilemma of the question mark, or to anticipate the shock and surprise of the exclamation point, the same holds true of the isolationist attitude of the comma and its distant cousins the colon and semi-colon.

The hyphen on the other hand, is a complicated ambiguity bordering on near-mystery, a symbolism replete with contradictions. It is quite possibly the shortest stroke in printed or written text, and yet hyphens exist to connect, not to conclude, and despite the shortness of its length and breadth that could easily be mistaken for a short-lived existence, hyphens do not bring closure or finality to an idea the way the period does, but keeps it hanging instead. Perpetuity is the hallmark of this punctuation mark. Think floating between words. That is exactly the state of being the hyphen finds itself in the realm of the written, a barely visible stroke suspended in space, never to touch ground level.

By way of an analogy, the hyphen represents a transition, the progression of idea from one word to the next. The first word will not be completed without the second, as each of them taken in isolation will never make as much sense as having the two of them together, conjoined like inseparable twins by the tie that binds in order to achieve fullness, and serve their function well.

And further still, to stretch the analogy into metaphor, the hyphen might as well be the embodiment of life itself, the life that we have in its smallness, in its sheer irrelevance against the infinite magnitude of time and space. But though it might be a hyphen among words, this life however is not ended by death or the total abdication of physical existence. Rather, it simply undergoes a gradual transformation into a higher form, a great spiritual state of being which ultimately is our destiny.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

how are you?

Just wanted to show my appreciation for your time and hard work