wednesday weads – what IS the “what”?

23/06/2010 § Leave a comment

It was long overdue, by weeks I am only assuming. Having been in a daze, no help from this haze, I forgot about my book that I had borrowed from the Scugog Public Library: “What is the What”, by Dave Eggers.

Last week, I returned the book and made a mark in my notebook, Chapter XXI. I planned on coming back to Toronto and borrowing the book from our own public facilities, state-of-the-art online renewals being my primary motivation. Continue from Chapter XXI.

I biked up to my “local” branch — although I am in the epicentre of three — at Bloor & Dufferin.

Where can I search your catalog?

The last computer on your right is specific for catalog searches, but you can use any computer, really.


As I turned around, I noticed what a post-renovation library looks like: glass and wires. Not only is the exterior finished with a glass encasing, soft and frosty, but the inside is immaculately polished. People were sprawled out on couches, scattered across the tables, all with their heads down, not in books but in laptops and personal-technological devices. It didn’t matter, I was at the library to search for my book.

At the catalog-computer, I typed in the book’s title and the results were inconclusive. What?

I noticed that I had not chosen “Title” and was using the “Keyword” search. That must have been the problem. I changed the subject to “Title”. Search results 12 copies of audio-discs. What?

There are zero hard-copies — tactile, tangible — of the book I was looking for, only compact-discs throughout Toronto’s public libraries. I wondered, mind wandering, whether this was a good thing or a bad thing.

Last night, Tala & I

– Dude, the youth are getting smarter at a much younger age. They are becoming more aware of themselves at, like, 10.

– Yeah. I wonder what it’s like for our parents and grandparents to see this happen.

What is going on? Are the days of books gone? While the youth is fiddling with photos or updating on current affairs, they can also listen to literature. Information input has never been so encompassing. Even sitting here listening to the radio, questioning what is the what and simultaneously typing is making my head hurt.

That aside, I guess the “what” is the unknown, the other side.

It is a question that pops up in stories of humanity’s past. Whether the question is drawn from religion or an informal, spiritual pondering of human existence, people tend to want to know what they do not know. It happens on many levels. We want to know our purpose and where — and if — we fit into the bigger picture. Somehow, we know we must and for that we must know.

What is scary is to find it rather difficult to fit into a bigger picture or greater purpose. Before, when we lived in small communities, even farther back to our village-dwelling selves, each individual had a purpose, each had something to contribute to the whole.

There are over 6 billion individuals in this world and the options to be something are becoming infinite. With the growing global community — travel and internet — we are much more aware of this.

What will be our “what”?

According to a fable told to a young Valentino Achak Deng, the “what” was what separated the Dinka from the Arabs in Sudan. What this means, I can only speculate, at least until I surpass Chapter XXI:

The “what” could be a constant stirring of discontent, traveling outside your home or your self, in search of some meaning.

When Achak describes a woman he is in love with, Tabitha, he has this to say:

I believe that Tabitha liked very much to be pursued, to know that I was so far away but that I waited for her, that I pined for her. I imagine her telling her friends that I was a ‘nice boy’ while she kept her eye open for new opportunities. This is not to say I believe she was otherwise involved. Only that she was a desirable young woman, new to the possibilities of this country, and she needed attention as much as she needed love. Perhaps more so.” (256-7, pages, not sections from an audio-disc)

Perhaps this false idolization of attention is our rationalization of love. It affects us all.

I wonder what insights Chapter XXII will have to offer.


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