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Tuesday, 16 February 2010 02:00

Wandering wonders / Wondering wanders

By  Mehita Iqani
What shall I write about for my editorial? A good question, and appropriate to the theme at hand despite being rather predictable and clichéd. Then again, I have always rather liked clichés. To some degree, every question is a cliché, is it not? Rhetorically speaking, of course.

What will happen next? How will I get through this? Where will I go? What will I do? What will make me happy? Where will life take me? Will I choose it or will it choose me?

Sometimes I think that I am addicted to questions, especially those that concern the future and contain the word "will". It's not so much the answers that I'm interested in because I know that they are impossible to come by. It's more that rush of anxiety that comes with contemplating a variety of possibilities that unfold as tantalizing narratives with me at centre stage. Such questions are an enticing drug deflecting energy and commitment away from the now, where it is arguably most needed. Will-questions are solipsistic, selfish and egotistical; they are pointless in their impotence and vociferous in their control-freakishness. Questions framed around the word 'will' seem to think that if they make the demands to know vociferously enough, answers will be forced to appear. But what does it matter what will or will not occur, when life is ready to be lived whole-heartedly in the now? Easier said than done, of course, when there are colourful open-ended future-fantasies in which one can lose oneself rather than engaging with the dull certainties of the moment.

Do you understand? Am I making sense? Can you explain more what you mean by that? Where do you stand on this issue? What's your perspective on that problem? How would you compare or contrast this with that? How does it fit into the bigger picture? Can you give an example of that?

A lot of my time right now is spent trying to ask and answer questions, not always the same ones. It's what I do for a living. Higher education is fundamentally organised around questions which are key to the quest for knowledge. We ask them in the lecture and seminar rooms, they organise reading and writing, they frame and direct research. Teachers want students to ask questions and to question the answers they read and hear. Questioning is supposedly a mark of independent thinking, an indication of the development and exercise of critical ability. But they are relentless and prolific, difficult, challenging; they resist one-word answers. Questions signpost things that we find confusing, complex, enigmatic or puzzling about the world around us so that we can ask, "Why is it so? How is it so? What does it mean?" And by doing this, over and over again, we become entwined in the questions and entangled in the answers. It's a way of life for some; others may wonder, "Is all this questioning really necessary?"

A mind without questions is a mind at peace. Does such a mind exist?

Excuse me? What was that? Did I miss something? Who am I? Would you like a cup of tea? Are you free next Friday? What about the 27th? Is that the time already? Where did I put my keys?

Enquiries rise almost automatically from our minds and throats at almost every conceivable situation, and linger, dissipate, or are endlessly renewed. The thing that characterises humanity is, perhaps, our innate need to question almost everything that we experience, see and imagine. Questioning is our way of reaching out, it is a practice so deeply embedded in our consciousness that humanity would be lost if we weren't able to ask for and about things. The collection of work in this issue marries a variety of forms of expression with questions, some existentialist, others trite: What's  that making me itch? What is identity and why should I have one? Where do I come from? What if we were together? Why do I write? Is this genre of photography clichéd? What's for lunch? Are you scared? Is it fair? Does it make sense? Is there life after death?

And so on. It's an enigmatic issue, but what else could we have expected from ? but a collection of wandering wonders about the meaning of it all and wondering wanders through creative self-expression.
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