Dec 9 2005


Love it, live it, use it. Even Thomas Mann and Pynchon, convoluted and extended as their sentences may be, use it. Joyce and Cummings didn’t always use it, but they were genius enough to do so. You and I are not.

When someone asks you a question, answer. Don’t hem and haw about. Affirmative, negative, expository, interrogative, or just a simple “I don’t know,” will suffice. Once you’ve made your point, stop. It’s terminal. Even a question mark has a period in it.

It seems that some people don’t believe their point has been absorbed until they are interrupted, and they’ll keep on trucking, increasingly vague, dancing around their answer, redundant, excessive, repetitious, restating in different formulations, an interminable stretch of annoyance. It’s perfectly acceptable, preferable even, to conclude your response with “Does that answer your question?” or “Does that make sense?” at which point you have reached another period. Even more confidently, just stop. Wait for them to indicate they need clarification or elaboration.

You can also utilize someone else’s period. After they’ve asked a question or made a statement you want to respond to, bask in the silence of that termination, think about your answer, allow yourself to prepare. They’ll appreciate the consideration you’re giving their thoughts.

Commas, semi-colons, colons, hyphens – ellipses even, a band of commas disguised as periods – all leave wanting, suspended. We’re looking for the followup, the resolution, and ultimately … a conclusion. Even when trailing off satisfactorily, we have an ellipses trailed by what? A period. A stop.

A period allows you to stop and rest, to appreciate Cage’s symphony. Yes, even Cage had a period to his compositions: at precisely four minutes and thirty-three seconds. Cage knew the value of a period, he stretched a period from a pit stop to a stroll along the avenue. He inverted it. It was the journey. A period can be enjoyed indefinitely, there’s no requirement that space be filled with sound just for it’s own sake, an prosaic interlude between periods. Periods are not nothing, they are not the tick marks between inches that are compelling only due to that which they demarcate, they are significant in their own right. Each has it’s own flavor and characteristics, and can never be duplicated. Periods are snowflakes. Periods are fractals. Periods are books and songs and conversations and seasons and small woodland creatures. Periods are silence fraught with ambiance. Periods are.

In other words, sometimes you just need to shut the fuck up.