The Dash and the Comma

Have you noticed that for each person you know, each of them has a favorite topic for discussion? One wants to talk about politics. Another is deeply moved by personal finance. Some need to talk about family relationships. Other things do come up during the discussion, but it always feels like we’re circling around what it is they really care about.

"Clare"

“Clare”

For my friend “Clare” the topic is religion. Fortunately, I love talking religion, especially with her. I am a novice. She’s a pro. There is so much for me to learn, especially when I’m trying to explain how I feel. At our last meeting, for her father’s funeral, we talked about “the dash.” The summary of a person’s life chiseled into a tombstone. You’ve seen it.

1927-2016

That’s more than eighty years reduced to a single mark in a stone. It’s up to us to fill in that tiny space with our understanding of a lifetime.

As the talk moved on I related that every time I recite the Creed during a church service, I am reminded of “the dash.” Except that it’s a comma. An entire life reduced to a comma. A life that changed my life, and the life of the world. Where’s that comma, you ask?

“… born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate.” (Apostles’ Creed)

Did you catch the comma? That little mark? Thirty three years represented by a simple comma.  The comma wasn’t even invented until hundreds of years after the person in question lived his life between birth and death. Yet a comma represents everything but the first day and the last days of that life. Continue reading