The Challenges Of Unselfish Parenting

We cap­ture every pos­si­ble pic­ture and video of our chil­dren today. We cap­ture the audio of the first sounds our child makes. We cap­ture the video of the first time our baby begins to crawl, and the first time our baby stands, and the first time our child walks.

We accu­mu­late all such mem­o­ries so that when our child grows up, he/she can see and expe­ri­ence his/her child­hood in all its glory.

We grew up in a time when such con­tin­u­ous record­ing of moments and their accu­mu­la­tion was not pos­si­ble. So we do our best to do what was not pos­si­ble dur­ing our childhood.

At the same time, we dis­pose of our own child­hood pho­tographs casu­ally, as we don’t think they are rel­e­vant any­more. We dis­pose of our school mem­o­ra­bilia, the whole class pho­tographs, the now-silly-looking cer­tifi­cates of our extra-curricular achieve­ment, etc.

We let go of our child­hood because we are now focused on our child.

Let us take a step back here.

Did we not try to explore our par­ents’ child­hood? After see­ing a few pic­tures of our par­ents’ as kids, did we not thirst for more? Did we see any pic­tures of our par­ents in school? How many of us have seen cer­tifi­cates of scholas­tic or extra-curricular achieve­ments of our par­ents? Wouldn’t we like to?

There was a point in time when our par­ents dis­posed of such mem­o­ra­bilia, because they thought their kids’ lives were more impor­tant than their own.

This is exactly the same prac­tice we repeat, gen­er­a­tion after gen­er­a­tion. And every par­ent thinks he/she is being com­pletely unselfish and devoted to the kid(s) when doing so.

In fact, it is the opposite.

As par­ents, we are not unselfishly con­sid­er­ing what our child would con­sider impor­tant after he/she grows up. We are mak­ing deci­sions our­selves, in antic­i­pa­tion, with assump­tions, because we think we know what is best for our child. We are not being gen­er­ous enough to let our child have the free­dom to explore mem­o­ra­bilia of our own lives.

While think­ing to our­selves that we are being the epit­ome of unselfish­ness in our parental mind­set, we are actu­ally being the most self­ish of all.

The parental par­a­digm is con­trar­ian to the indi­vid­u­al­ism mind­set. It is often devi­ous enough that as par­ents we think we are act­ing in the best inter­est of our child as an indi­vid­ual. It is often wise to relin­quish the parental par­a­digm and rethink.

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How We Should Or Should Not Use Social Networks

This is a com­pan­ion post to The Dis­il­lu­sion­ment of Social Net­works. If you have not read it, please do, before con­tin­u­ing to read.

What I did not dis­cuss in that post is our expec­ta­tion from other peo­ple about how they should be using social net­work­ing or how they should go about their online com­mu­ni­ca­tion in general.

  • You con­nect with some­one on Face­book, which you use only to share per­sonal stuff, only to find that they use it only to reshare funny or inspir­ing or (insert your own adjec­tive here) pic­tures and messages.
  • You fol­low a “thought leader” on Twit­ter, only to find the per­son rant­ing about the traf­fic, or politi­cians, or sim­ply singing praises of other thought lead­ers, or sim­ply RTing any and all pos­i­tive men­tions of themselves.
  • Some­one you fol­low on Twit­ter sud­denly goes into over­drive, and there are a stream of tweets that drown every­thing else in your timeline.
  • All you see from your friend/relative on Face­book is the great time he/she is hav­ing or has had with great friends. There is no real per­son behind all the shares, it is all just an image he/she wishes to por­tray on social media.
  • Some­one tweets mul­ti­ple thoughts on a topic and we think it would have been bet­ter if he/she had blogged about it, since the essence of Twit­ter is its 140 char­ac­ter limit.

Sounds famil­iar? There are many exam­ples and I won’t bother to enu­mer­ate them.

What under­lies our dis­il­lu­sion­ment? Our expectation.

We have very spe­cific ideas about how one should use a social net­work. When our expec­ta­tions are not ful­filled, we are dis­il­lu­sioned. As far as our dis­il­lu­sion­ment is about a social net­work, it is okay. But often, we cross the line. Often, we are already dis­il­lu­sioned about the per­son who has not met our expec­ta­tions of how he/she should use social net­works. This is scary and it hap­pens all the time.

We are pre­dis­posed to a per­son who we have met online, but have never met in real life, just because of how that per­son behaves online.

This is the other side of the Con­flict of Online & Offline Iden­ti­ties.

Why should we have expec­ta­tions about how oth­ers should com­mu­ni­cate online? Why should we have expec­ta­tions about how oth­ers should use social net­works? But we do, just because we are accus­tomed to using that spe­cific online com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nel in a spe­cific way, and any anom­aly offends us as a violation.

If we allow our own spe­cific ideas of online com­mu­ni­ca­tion and social net­work­ing to dis­il­lu­sion our­selves about peo­ple, the only thing we end up achiev­ing is dis­tanc­ing our­selves from them.

Instead of online com­mu­ni­ca­tion being a vehi­cle for greater con­nect­ed­ness, it can end up dis­con­nect­ing us from people.

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How Our Intelligence Makes Us Bad Listeners

The more intel­li­gent we are, the more we (think) we under­stand peo­ple. The more we are able to under­stand what they say. The more we are able to antic­i­pate what they are going to say. The more we are likely to stop lis­ten­ing because we have not only fig­ured out what they are going to say, we have already for­mu­lated our response preemptively.

This is a trap I some­times find myself falling into, even sev­eral years after try­ing to imbibe Seek First To Under­stand, Then To Be Under­stood.

There are usu­ally four lev­els of listening:

  • ignor­ing
  • pre­tend­ing
  • selec­tive listening
  • atten­tive listening

What most of us fail to do on a reg­u­lar basis is the high­est form of lis­ten­ing – empa­thetic listening.

Even after study­ing about empa­thetic lis­ten­ing as the pil­lar of human com­mu­ni­ca­tion, we some­times stray away from it. The prob­lem is often our intelligence.

Our intel­li­gence dic­tates that com­mu­ni­ca­tion is intended for com­pre­hen­sion. In real­ity, most com­mu­ni­ca­tion in close rela­tion­ships is intended to con­vey emotion.

Our intel­li­gence, work­ing like an over­clocked CPU, becomes hyper­ac­tive in antic­i­pat­ing what oth­ers are say­ing, rel­ishes the dis­cov­ery of our antic­i­pa­tion prov­ing cor­rect, gets high in nar­cis­sis­tic self-approval while the resid­ual part of our brain spits out our already for­mu­lated response. By this time, our intel­li­gence is already antic­i­pat­ing prob­a­ble responses to what we have spit out, and ready­ing our responses to it.

Intel­li­gence is often lethal to empathy.

There is a higher intel­li­gence that can help us iden­tify sit­u­a­tions where com­mu­ni­ca­tion is not intended for com­pre­hen­sion but to con­vey emo­tion. There is a higher intel­li­gence in under­stand­ing that com­pre­hen­sion con­sti­tutes only 10% of the com­mu­ni­ca­tion; 30% of it is in the tone, 60% of it is in the body lan­guage. Our intel­li­gence can cause myopia in focus­ing on that 10% of ver­bal communication.

We need to teach our intel­li­gence to under­stand that it can be a very inef­fec­tive tool for human com­mu­ni­ca­tion, unless its pow­ers are har­nessed not for com­pre­hen­sion but for more empathy.

Posted in psychology | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Western Classical Music in Films

[This post is #9 in the West­ern Clas­si­cal Music Series]

Movies have used clas­si­cal music since for­ever, and they help keep it alive in our cul­ture. Here are a few of my favorite scenes in movies fea­tur­ing West­ern Clas­si­cal Music.

Also Sprach Zarathus­tra invokes mem­o­ries of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey more than its com­poser Richard Strauss. Here is a unique (re)take on the clas­si­cal music in 2001:

Also Sprach Zarathus­tra in 2001: A Space Odyssey

Do study the long note on the video at YouTube, it is an entire blog post in itself.

Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries was used to dev­as­tat­ing effect in Apoc­a­lypse Now:

Ride of the Valkyries in Apoc­a­lypse Now

Who can for­get Cav­al­le­ria rus­ti­cana in the open­ing cred­its of Rag­ing Bull?

Cav­al­le­ria rus­ti­cana in Rag­ing Bull

Also in God­fa­ther III?

Cav­al­le­ria rus­ti­cana from God­fa­ther III

The great Charles Chap­lin, a com­poser of note him­self, once said in an interview:

Film music must never sound as if it were con­cert music. While it actu­ally may con­vey more to the beholder-listener than the cam­era con­veys at a given moment, still it must be never more than the voice of that camera”.

Study how he used Brahms’ Hun­gar­ian Dance No. 5 in The Great Dic­ta­tor, his actions speak­ing louder than the music:

Brahms Hun­gar­ian Dance No. 5 in The Great Dictator

Chap­lin is almost wield­ing a conductor’s baton! Most audi­ences would assume this music was com­posed specif­i­cally for this scene.

Woody Allen used clas­si­cal music in almost every movie he made. After Walt Disney’s leg­endary 1940 visu­al­iza­tion in Fan­ta­sia of Gershwin’s Rhap­sody in Blue as depict­ing life in New York:

Rhap­sody in Blue in Fantasia

Woody used it in the open­ing of Man­hat­tan as “pul­sat­ing to the great tunes of George Gersh­win”:

Rhap­sody in Blue in Manhattan

Who can for­get the moment in Out of Africa when Denys gets a gramo­phone for Karen, play­ing the Diver­ti­mento it took me a very, very long time to find?

Mozart Diver­ti­mento K136 in Out of Africa

One of the all time great, poignant scene in movies that always moves me to tears is the aria La Momma Morta (They killed my mother) from Philadel­phia:

La Momma Morta in Philadelphia

Lastly, this scene from The Shaw­shank Redemp­tion would have made a per­ma­nent mark on any­one who has seen it, fea­tur­ing the “Let­ter Duet” from Mozart’s The Mar­riage of Figaro:

The Mar­riage of Figaro in The Shaw­shank Redemption

To afi­ciona­dos of WCM, its use in movies and adver­tise­ments can be tire­some as expressed here:

Purists ridicule the use of clas­si­cal music in films, com­plain­ing that the same pieces are used over and over again…Yet the truth is, clas­si­cal music, an art form that has been on life sup­port for at least one gen­er­a­tion, would have com­pletely faded out of the public’s con­scious­ness by now were it not for films and tele­vi­sion commercials.

Films also help clas­si­cal music from expir­ing. Clas­si­cal music, used in hun­dreds of films, includ­ing movies where it is least expected, keeps the lofty art form in the pub­lic ear, even when the pub­lic does not know what it is lis­ten­ing to, or can barely hear the music in the back­ground. It also helps that hun­dreds of movie scores are ripped-off ver­sions of the classics.

Can you imag­ine The Seven Year Itch or Brief Encounter with­out Rachmaninoff’s 2nd? Will it remain rel­e­gated in our mass cul­tural mem­ory to a film by David Lean or one star­ring Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe? We now live in a world where if you are attend­ing a per­for­mance of this work, it needs a pre­lude of this kind.

I can­not end this post with­out a brief men­tion of the influ­ence of WCM in Hindi movies, and espe­cially Salil Chowd­hury.

We have already dis­cussed in detail the use of Coun­ter­point in Hindi film music.

Salilda was a great stu­dent of WCM since child­hood and incor­po­rated it in unique ways in his com­po­si­tions, blend­ing it with folk tunes. We dis­cussed WCM’s polyphony before, as well as chro­mati­cism, see how Salilda uses it in Rimjhim Ke Ye Pyaare Pyaare to cre­ate texture:

Rimjhim Ke Ye Pyaare Pyaare by Salil Chowdhury

Read this excel­lent post for a deep dive into this song.

Such was his love of Mozart that he adapted the Molto Alle­gro from Mozart’s 40th Sym­phony for Itna Na Mujhse Tu Pyaar Badha:

Itna Na Mujhse Tu Pyaar Badha

I hope this selec­tion of movie clips helps high­light some unfor­get­table music in movies.

Posted in Arts, cinema, music | 9 Comments


There are moments. When you real­ize there is a “meta” to every­thing that hap­pens. You have a feel­ing of accom­plish­ment of hav­ing the insight of the under­ly­ing meta.

It is a clar­ity, an insight, that you are joy­ous about. It is as if you have found the root of it all, in that context.

But you know what? Nobody cares about the meta. Nobody cares about your sup­posed insight. That is when real­ity sinks in. All oth­ers are inter­ested in is the here and now. Nobody cares about your insight. Nobody cares about your abstrac­tions. How­ever insight­ful they may be.

Abstrac­tions are what they are; dis­as­so­ci­ated from real­ity, an indul­gence of those who are Unquiet. Abstrac­tions are an obses­sion of An Unquiet Mind.

Posted in Personal | 2 Comments

In Memoriam: Roger Ebert


Dear Roger Ebert,

Since you left us in April 2013, I have been very lonely. There are few souls for whom movies are a core pas­sion of their lives. For over two decades, you have been a light­house for those of us who dared sail­ing uncharted waters of the deep ocean of films.

Lesser minds like ours would have been fas­ci­nated at the “longest flash for­ward” in the his­tory of cin­ema and iden­ti­fied with the ter­ror of HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was you who helped us to appre­ci­ate the unique use of clas­si­cal music, observe that it is a movie intended to make us con­tem­plate our place in the uni­verse, that we became humans when we learned to think, and that we are not flesh but intel­li­gence.

We had never real­ized how the grad­u­ally increas­ing claus­tro­pho­bic ten­sion in 12 Angry Men was achieved, till you shared Lumet’s strat­egy of shoot­ing the first third of the movie above eye level, the sec­ond third at eye level, and the last third below eye level.

Dis­cern­ing audio­philes among us had never really under­stood the box office suc­cess and pop­u­lar­ity of Amadeus, till you explained its strat­egy of “por­tray­ing Mozart not as a paragon whose great­ness is a bur­den to us all, but as a goofy proto-hippie with a high-pitched gig­gle”, and howfew of us can iden­tify with divine genius, but many of us prob­a­bly have had dark moments of urgent self-contempt in the face of those whose effort­less exis­tence illus­trates our own inad­e­qua­cies”.

There are some of us who like to watch a movie com­pletely unpre­pared, with a blank state of mind, to be a vir­gin for the movie. There are oth­ers who come pre­pared, know­ing what to expect, what to appre­ci­ate, hav­ing labored at their stud­ies of the film as if it were an exam­i­na­tion that some­how will ulti­mately deter­mine whether they passed or failed. I belong to the lat­ter cat­e­gory and you were my ref­er­ence ency­clo­pe­dia. I now feel as ner­vous as a vir­gin when con­tem­plat­ing to watch a new movie you have not reviewed.

You echoed our thoughts of how men­tal ill­ness in movies is usu­ally por­trayed as “grotesque, sen­sa­tional, cute, funny, will­ful, tragic or per­verse” and how A Beau­ti­ful Mind avoided doing so. I had cried uncon­trol­lably even as an ado­les­cent when I watched The Color Pur­ple for the first time, but you helped me under­stand how Spiel­berg and Gold­berg deceived my mind by mak­ing me live Celie’s life though I’m not female, not black, and not Celie.

We might have sim­ply laughed at the satire and com­edy in Dr. Strangelove, but you made us appre­ci­ate “its will­ing­ness to fol­low the sit­u­a­tion to its log­i­cal con­clu­sion — nuclear anni­hi­la­tion — a purity that today’s lily-livered happy-ending tech­ni­cians would prob­a­bly find a way around”, that every time you see it, you find new things in it, and thus, that there is tremen­dous grav­ity under­neath a suc­cess­ful comedy.

Your review of Dead Man Walk­ing reminded us of “how most movies fall into con­ven­tional rou­tine, and lull us with the reas­sur­ance that they will not look too hard, or probe too deeply, or make us think beyond the bound­aries of what is com­fort­able”. It was you who helped us dis­cern that Fellini’s 8½ is not a film about a direc­tor out of ideas; it is a film filled to burst­ing with inspiration.

You were never hes­i­tant to admit your mis­takes, rather cheer­fully learned from them. You fol­lowed up your ini­tial under­rat­ing of Ground­hog Day in 1993 with a revised out­look in 2005, thus telling us that it is okay to under or over rate a film in the first view­ing and change our per­spec­tive later. You thus taught us that movies are liv­ing enti­ties in how they reflect our evolv­ing selves.

You gained my respect two decades back when you deemed Ikiru as “one of the few movies that might actu­ally be able to inspire some­one to lead their life a lit­tle dif­fer­ently”. You became my soul mate when you sin­gled out the “well” scene in Red Beard as the unfor­get­table scene in the movie. I knew then, that I had a friend for life. But now you’ve left us and I am left star­ing at lone­li­ness. Inside my mind, I am scream­ing in a well, in des­per­ate hope that you will come back.

No friend of mine, no ‘rec­om­men­da­tion algo­rithm’, no ‘taste graph’, would have sug­gested that I watch Kin­sey. That this “impos­si­ble” man’s work led even­tu­ally to the decrim­i­nal­iza­tion of homo­sex­u­al­ity is some­thing I would never have learned unless I had read your review. Folks may con­tinue to dis­cuss the tech­ni­cal­ity of the “longest kiss in the his­tory of movies” which side-stepped the pro­duc­tion code of “no kiss longer than three sec­onds” by inter­spers­ing dia­logue in Noto­ri­ous, but it was you who put this Hitch­cock mas­ter­piece into per­spec­tive and explained his tech­nique for the rest of us. You explained how Psycho’s mis­lead­ing, deceiv­ing plot setup enhances its shock, and how Hitch­cock insid­i­ously sub­sti­tutes pro­tag­o­nists.

I will never for­get watch­ing One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in a crowded cin­ema hall with peo­ple even stand­ing in the aisles, watch­ing in rapt hyp­no­tism in pin drop silence. But it was you who made me real­ize the under­ap­pre­ci­ated work of Louise Fletcher as the nurse. You did not crit­i­cize Hotel Rwanda for not focus­ing on the geno­cide, and por­tray­ing the kind of hero who is not sil­hou­et­ted against moun­tain­tops.

In 1999, five years after The Shaw­shank Redemp­tion was released, you high­lighted Red’s three appear­ances for parole as the “car­rier of the film’s spir­i­tual arc”. Five years later, on its tenth anniver­sary cel­e­bra­tion on Char­lie Rose, Darabont described those scenes as “car­ry­ing the movie’s tra­jec­tory”.

I was spell­bound by Mephisto, but you helped me under­stand what it was all about. When Ing­mar Bergman left us in 2007, I described how and why I was afraid of watch­ing his films. I waited over 20 years to brace myself to watch Cries and Whis­pers, to have the courage of with­stand­ing its extremes of human feel­ing, and it was you who instilled that courage in me.

You ele­vated movie jour­nal­ism into an art form wor­thy of the first Pulitzer Prize for crit­i­cism. When you lost your voice to can­cer in 2006, you became more vocal using Twit­ter, as gra­cious as ever in admit­ting you werehum­bled by a mother of three in New Delhi”. Such was your tenac­ity in remain­ing engaged with your world­wide fol­low­ers that you took “A Leave of Pres­ence” just two days before leav­ing us for­ever. You taught us not to be afraid of death, when in 2009 you saidI was per­fectly con­tent before I was born, and I think of death as the same state”.

Dear Roger, you were never just a movie critic. You were an inspi­ra­tion, a philoso­pher, and a friend even to those you never met. You not only taught us more about movies than any film maker ever did, you helped us, again and again, to learn from movies how to live our lives better.

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The Abused Exclamation Mark

From sur­prise to hap­pi­ness, from anger to vio­lence, from anguish to tragedy, the excla­ma­tion mark punc­tu­ates a vari­ety of human expres­sion. When a char­ac­ter in your fic­tion says “Stop!”, your reader hears the shout; while “Stop.” con­veys there is a calm author­ity behind the order. A com­mand to “Jump” may not achieve it’s pur­pose; “Jump!” may actu­ally pro­pel one to do so.

Sadly, this unique and extra­or­di­nary power of the excla­ma­tion mark has greatly dimin­ished in con­tem­po­rary writ­ing. The elu­sive semi­colon lies at one end of the spec­trum, the abused excla­ma­tion marks the other end. Like a can­cer in our mod­ern lan­guage, it seems to mul­ti­ply for­ever. A sin­gle mark no longer con­veys the level of excite­ment or shock as it once used to, it now needs sev­eral mul­ti­ples of itself to cre­ate the magic.

There is an odd­ity about these mul­ti­ples that I have never under­stood: they occur as a group of either 3 or 5 or more, rarely 2 or 4. I hope in vain that some­day, the sin­gle excla­ma­tion mark will get even with those who so abuse it.

Now we even encounter cases where the num­ber of marks used out­num­ber the let­ters it was intended to punc­tu­ate, as in “OMG!!!!!!!”, thus becom­ing more dis­rup­tive than even the paren­the­sis.

Jew­elry can embell­ish, but not make a woman beau­ti­ful; gar­nish­ing can enhance fla­vor, not cre­ate it. Embell­ish­ment can dimin­ish the orig­i­nal idea. The excla­ma­tion mark can punc­tu­ate con­tent, not sub­sti­tute it. Alas, like an alco­holic who is never sat­is­fied with just one drink, pop­u­lar lan­guage is rarely sati­ated with just one excla­ma­tion mark. The excla­ma­tion mark is the new opi­ate of the masses.

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The Disruptive Parenthesis

This is not a Par­ent The­sis on gram­mar about how kids should write; it is just a con­tin­u­a­tion of my mus­ings. Noticed the semicolon?

When you write, you assume there is a reader (unless you are writ­ing for your­self), and the paren­the­sis (when and if used) is where you ask the reader to hold your cur­rent idea in the mind, while you dis­tract for a bit, seek atten­tion even to the dis­trac­tion, then implore the reader to fol­low in your ear­lier, orig­i­nal flow.

The above sen­tence rewritten:

Unless you are writ­ing for your­self, you assume there is a reader. When you use a paren­the­sis, you are ask­ing the reader to hold your cur­rent idea in the mind, while you dis­tract for a bit, seek atten­tion even to the dis­trac­tion, then implore the reader to fol­low in your ear­lier, orig­i­nal flow.

Which reads better?

When you watch sports on TV, and watch a replay in slow motion to enjoy a spe­cial shot, it is a break from the live flow. It does ask you to “hold” your live TV watch­ing, replays what you’ve already seen, and resumes to live action. It is like reread­ing the pre­vi­ous sen­tence more slowly. It isn’t a paren­the­sis how­ever, because it doesn’t dis­tract. A paren­the­sis dis­tracts by definition.

Your reader is on a flow, raft­ing along with the cur­rent of your river. When you use paren­the­sis (if you do) the reader’s raft hits a rock. See?

Paren­the­sis are nec­es­sar­ily branches of a thought process; trib­u­taries of your river that lead nowhere. A free­way exit you force upon your reader, but one that sim­ply loops back to the free­way, slow­ing the reader unnec­es­sar­ily. If one’s thought process has a def­i­nite des­ti­na­tion, then one need not waste one­self in trib­u­taries of paren­the­ses. One can flow straight­for­ward, car­ry­ing read­ers in an unin­ter­rupted flow, right up to the des­ti­na­tion (unless you use parenthesis).

The paren­the­sis dis­rupts the flow; it is very dis­rup­tive by nature.

In my 40s, when I look back at every­thing I’ve writ­ten in my life so far, it takes me quite a while to dis­cover an instance when I used paren­the­sis. It is my least uti­lized writ­ing device.

But for­get writ­ing. When I need to use paren­the­sis in my think­ing, I take a step back. Because, when­ever one feels the need of the paren­the­sis, one is branch­ing out con­cep­tu­ally. A care­ful rethink­ing yields the insight needed to inte­grate the trib­u­tary into the main river, after which one is ready to express. Or write. With­out parenthesis.

Posted in Writing | Tagged , | 3 Comments

The Elusive Semicolon

Of all the var­i­ous punc­tu­a­tion marks, the semi­colon is the most elu­sive. One instinc­tively knows when to use the period. One has no doubts what to use when one is ter­ri­bly excited! When seri­ously in doubt, does one hes­i­tate to ask a ques­tion? But when­ever one strings mul­ti­ple things together, the comma often seems to do the job, leav­ing the semi­colon aside. Largely unused, often ignored, the semi­colon has an iden­tity cri­sis and is in dan­ger of becom­ing extinct.

The comma mean­while, evolves in its dom­i­nance, con­quer­ing every­thing in its path, threat­en­ing to  oblit­er­ate the semi­colon out of existence.

But, the semi­colon con­tin­ues to sur­vive a frag­ile exis­tence. When a thought process begins from a cer­tain idea A as the start, goes through an inter­me­di­ary step B, leads to a con­clu­sion C, the comma does the job in giv­ing your reader the nec­es­sary pause to fol­low you. But a the­o­rem is always fol­lowed by its corol­lary; that’s when the semi­colon comes into the picture.

The comma leads the reader to take the next step, the semi­colon is where you let the reader take a breath and then take the next step. You do not let him stop; doing so neces­si­tates a period.

The comma, though dom­i­nant, is often depen­dent. It needs con­junc­tions, whether they are are, and, but, or or; the semi­colon, on the other hand, is inde­pen­dent. The grow­ing dom­i­nance of the comma per­haps tells us how we pre­fer the props of con­junc­tions to pro­pel the reader breath­lessly for­ward; while the semi­colon becomes an elu­sive fig­ure lan­guish­ing in aca­d­e­mic obscurity.

The comma with its con­junc­tions is banal; the semi­colon irre­place­able. Sub­sti­tute a semi­colon with a comma and a con­junc­tion and the sen­tence becomes insipid; divorce the two clauses with a period and the idea loses its inte­gral character.

The semi­colon is a bond like no other. It does not divide and con­quer like the period, nor does it mean­ing­lessly try to assim­i­late asym­me­try via con­junc­tions. The semi­colon respects indi­vid­u­al­ity; it merely seeks to con­nect. It is the elu­sive glue that bonds ideas like friends.

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