Punctuation As Musical Notation

Punctuation is notation for the music of speech.

The written words themselves convey the sounds, but the punctuation gives you emphasis and rhythm. Speech that is monotone may engage the linguistic areas of the brain, but effective writing and artful writing engages much more: it engages the emotions and triggers memories and the imagination. It is a whole-brain experience.

I realized at some point (I suppose when I started reading to my son before he could read for himself) that I read silently even more slowly than I read aloud, which seems remarkable because silent reading is far less encumbered by the mechanics of spoken language. Most people, of course, read much more quickly when doing so silently.

My eyes and mind still move at a very high speed when reading silently, but there are many loops and backtracking and retracing. My mind rolls the words around in my head; I re-read some significant percentage of words and sentences. Occasionally I will re-read particular sentences or phrases many times, and go off on tangents related to the idea or way of expressing it.

For me, the experience of the art of the written word–participating in that as a reader–is as big a part of the experience as gleaning the literal meaning the writer is trying to communicate.

This means that in my lifetime of reading, I will only have read a fraction of what I would have read if I read faster. I am certainly not saying it is better, per se.

What I am saying is that when you are editing your own writing, if you read what you have written out loud, instead of just silently, and make a sincere effort to decode it as a reader would decode it–pause for the commas and don’t pause where there are none, and so on–I believe this might provide some insight for you into how to improve the music of your writing in the ears of your readers.

Immediate Genetic Impact of Relaxation

This is the second study that caught my eye showing evidence that practices that elicit relaxation response, such as meditation, prayer, yoga, etc. are changing the expression of people’s genes.

It has long been known that stress, through the action of cortisol has an immune-system dampening effect, and that is one of the ways it damages health. But it’s nice to see such potent validation of the practices used for millennia to reduce stress and improve the health of the body and mind through relaxation.

A systems biology analysis of known interactions among the proteins produced by the affected genes revealed that pathways involved with energy metabolism, particularly the function of mitochondria, were upregulated during the relaxation response. Pathways controlled by activation of a protein called NF-κB—known to have a prominent role in inflammation, stress, trauma and cancer—were suppressed after relaxation response elicitation. The expression of genes involved in insulin pathways was also significantly altered.

Here’s another one, specific to yoga.

“These data suggest that previously reported (therapeutic) effects of yoga practices have an integral physiological component at the molecular level, which is initiated immediately during practice,” writes a research team led by Fahri Saatcioglu of the University of Oslo. The team’s study is published in the online journal PLOS ONE.