Sunday, May 31, 2009

Punctuation


People communicate primarily through metaphor because it draws attention to the patterns we see in our world.  "Hey!  This......looks/feels/smells  like...."  We can't help ourselves. We are comparison machines. 
I think humans learned to talk and write so they could find a way to stop pointing at everything, always yelling out to each other, "Look!  Look!"  My little granddaughter (that's her two posts back on Mom's day) does this all day long: point! point! point! look! look! look! When the words come it'll be one comparison after another that we'll scrabble to write down because of their adorable truths.  
That's just the way we roll.
Here's a metaphor I start thinking about this time every year:  Ritual as punctuation marks. About ten years ago I decided I really like the ceremonies that center around big moments - a wedding, a funeral, a baptism, a graduation.  They are the  punctuation marks of our lives.   And if a funeral is a period (.), then a graduation is an ellipsis (...)
I've lost count of the graduations I have been party to - as participant, observer, interested relative.   There have to have been over 30 by now.
But I never tire of them.  They are the most hopeful days of the year and a chance to celebrate with our students a major transition in their lives.  Our jaded high school students get weepy and then turn to the adults in their lives to give honest thanks.  And even though none of us are ever out of contact anymore thanks to non-stop twittering, texting,and facebooking, they begin to act as though they will never see each other anymore.  I remember one class clown declaring, "This has to be the saddest thing I've ever done!"
But we do see each other.  And this is the gift most teachers cherish.  If you live in the community where you teach, you see the whole continuum.  Students move on to the other phases of their lives: parenting, working, often serving their former teachers in health care, the armed services, or other public service.  Many don't forget their teachers and years later the teacher is surrounded by good friends - people you have had the privilege to help develop.
Its graduation week.  Time to watch another group head off to enrich the fertile fields.