One anechdote surrounding the death of legendary (post?)modernist poet Gertrude Stein goes like this. When she was being wheeled in for surgery, she frantically asked her lover Alice Toklas, “What is the answer?” And when Toklas did not reply, continued, “In that case, what is the question?”
Having read enough post-structuralist stuff, I am coming to the belief that there are no answers. Only questions and who is asking them. In my profession, where the word ‘truth’ is bandied about like a mantra (or a USP), this is probably an unorthodox view. But probably the most sane view to have in a world where the battle over truths is turning into a minefield of ideas gone awry. I find journalists stomping around in the quest for truth vaguely irritating. Grow up guy, who are you kidding. The most dangerous thing of all is the search for truth because rather than admit that it doesn’t admit, you blind yourselves with all sorts of smokes and mirrors, inevitably coming to the conclusion that the version that suits you best is the truest. A much more honest pursuit to present as many perspectives as possible (wah, what alliteration) and let the reader decide.
My most recent assignment was to interview the creators of Cirque du Soleil’s latest show in Macau. It is one of those rare times when I am fully at peace with my job. I even exerted myself to get territorial about this assignment.
More importantly, I threw myself into a frenzy of research. Ideally, this should be the case with every assignment but when you’re churning out a feature a week and at least two days are wasted in meetings and answering inane questions from your boss, you generally make do with at best reading the website of the person you’re interviewing and at worst, writing down questions in the MTR on your way to the interview.
But when you have an assignment of some import, as a mark of respect you try to know your stuff. Because a good interviewer knows everything there is to know about his interviewee before he meets him (yeah yeah I’m using him here because I’m think more Hard Talk than moi).
As I frantically googled (thank god for the Internet or is God the Internet, whichever), printed, made notes and even tried to memorise them, I felt like I was preparing for an exam. Except in this test, I was being tested not for the brilliance of my answers but for my questions. Because my subjects were not going to be in awe of me, because they were highly respected creatures in their own right, I would have to dazzle them with the efficacy with which I did my job just in order to do my job and get to the heart of the matter.
I am reduced to the student in a theory class who tries to impress the teacher with a query that is so much art in itself that while not being rhetorical, it can just be.