By Corey Joseph
At sixteen, my physics teacher wrote in my leavers book: “You grew on me like some sort of infectious virus.” It was a sweet thing to say considering just how persistently annoying I had been as a student. I was mischievous, abuzz with energy, and untrained in the art of “silent study.” But perhaps, his greatest grievance was how relentlessly inquisitive I was. For me, the question to end all questions was delightfully simple… “Why?”
It was never used to annoy, and it was never used without sincerity. I simply had a burning desire to understand the world around me and it seemed that the key was contained in this one little question. Every answer brought forth another inquiry, and for a teacher whose entire subject is shrouded in unknowns, I was only able to understand later what an awful sight my rising hand must have been in his classroom.
Over the years my personal experiences have shown me two likely outcomes in pursuing the question why to exhaustion. The first, and arguably more boring of the two, is that our questioning will lead us to the realms of science and metaphysical quandary. Here we are presented with reliable facts, or in the least well-informed assumption. When, however, we focus our questions on matters of the human experience, the whys of our emotional reactions, our formulated morals, and our sexual attractions, facts are difficult to come by.
To illustrate this, I present another anecdote from my childhood. People often used to ask me why I held such a strong fascination with Japan. In response, my answers would go into painstaking detail of all the ways in which the Japanese culture fascinated me. For myself, and certainly, for others, this answer was more than sufficient. And whilst this answer wasn’t false, it wasn’t until adulthood, when I pressed myself to further examine my answer, that I realized I had only scratched the surface of a bigger picture.
My interest wasn’t just in culture; it was also in the perceived freedom that Japan would afford me from perceived childhood oppressions. I longed for escape from a place and a people that appeared stuck in negative cycles. Years later, pulling at the same thread of the initial question, I would arrive at an even richer, more comprehensive answer which offered an even greater personal insight.
Perhaps in science, pulling at these whys can reveal to us concrete facts about the universe, but I would argue that these same kinds of facts don’t exist within our personal and interpersonal experiences. I would posit that an investigation into the human experience is instead a never-ending journey toward truth, with the struggle to grasp deeper meaning from our experiences helping to push the human desire to create. Poems, art, and music could be some of the ways in which we attempt to translate ungraspable truths into a form better understood by ourselves and others.
Ultimately, however, the validity of these ideas are for you to decide alone. So take a leap – ask some whys and see how far you’ll go (Though if you’re still in school, maybe wait till after class is finished…).
In this issue:
Odd Interview: Jesus Chaparro – Amir Bagheri
Persian Poetry: The Truth – Mehdi Bagheri
Retracing My Mother’s Footsteps – Mpho Ndaba
How to Learn a Language – Taahir Kamal Chagan
Notes on Duplicity – Juwairiah Bemath
My House Before It Leaves – Arushani Govender
The Trial – Chariklia Martalas
Scrambled Truth – Pelonomi Itumeleng
My Nursery Rhyme – Pippa Browning
Honesty – Ramatswi Solly
The Carving – Arushani Govender
The Sky – Prevash Moodley