As a child, I was very conscious of what it meant to be alive. Of course, I was unaware then what being alive entailed, if there were any other options apart from simply living. I remember asking my father, “Do we breathe when we sleep?” He had looked at me stupefied. "Of course, otherwise you would die!"
Already not understanding what being alive meant, you can imagine that the idea of death became another interrogation altogether. What does it mean to die? How can I die? I might have spent that night wide awake, trying to hold my breath just to test if my father’s words rang true.
I woke up the next day, alive, obviously. But you know what I mean: questions are a fundamental part of navigating life and the world we inhabit. It helps us make sense of relationships, understand the situations we are in and how to make decisions.
Hence, in this first issue of q, our contributors share what the act of questioning mean to them. Basilia Toh and Charmaine Teo shed some light on a practice which requires a lot of asking: in their profession as counsellors. The Catepillar Cove shares the questions posed by young children while Romanos Koutedakis replies to some of their tricky questions by means of applied philosophy. Marvin Tang, Mark de Winne and Catharina Krisanti question and explore Q visually as a type, among other quirky contributions.
I hope this issue will provide you with some answers (if not, even more questions!) to what you’ve been thinking about. In the meantime, enjoy reading and keep the questions coming.
Q is a character that presents opportunities to inject some character into the typeface.
As a type designer, I am often asked which is my favorite letter to design, or which is the hardest or easiest letter to design.
My answer is always “It depends”. Some characters in the alphabet are shockingly straightforward. The letter I for instance, or the H. The width of the character, and the styling and shape of the serifs matter more in this case than the designer’s opinion or stylistic preferences. The letter Q , however, is a bit of a shapeshifter. The Q is a rather curious character. It’s a composite character usually, composed of an O, with a tail of the designer’s choice. An O... is well, an O; the type designer must design one very early as it is a control character, but the tail of the Q is almost another thing altogether.
We can presume that the Platonic ideal of a Q is simply an O with a line through the bottom right corner. This is probably the first version of a Q that we learn to write. The line acts as a distinguishing feature, but in many typefaces, this feature takes on a life of its own.
From the disconnected tails found in many of Luc(as) de Groot’s typefaces to the highly elaborate tail in numerous cuts of Baskerville (used very effectively in Alexander McQueen’s logo), or the very swashy italic Q in Caslon that vaguely resembles the number 2 more than an O with a tail, the variety knows no bounds. Like the ampersand, the Q is a character that presents opportunities to inject some character (no pun intended) into the typeface. Qs can be serious, well behaved with tails that keep well within the metrics (or margins) of the letter, while others can be exhumed and showy, even a bit risqué. It is a matter of fashioning the tail.
For me, the Q is neither easy nor difficult, but it is challenging to find the right tail to match the rest of the typeface. It can afford to be plain, but that would be a cop out. The real challenge lies in creating something unique, and interesting (especially for a letter not used much in the English language), but still readable, recognizable and beautiful.
Death, in an extremely broad sense, is the end of one’s life. It is broad because the 7 terms “life” and “end” (in regards to life), feature a plethora of different definitions and views that are contested. Hence, the reason why one dies can vary, depending on what definition one ascribes to death.
The notion of death is one that transcends the philosophical realm due to its real life impact and thus, working definitions were developed to aid physicians, lawyers and governments in determining what constitutes as death. The U.K’s National Health Service (NHS) considers a person dead when Brain Stem Death occurs. “Brain stem death is when a person no longer has any brain stem functions, and has permanently lost the potential for consciousness and the capacity to breathe" and hence, the answer to question A is: because the brain stem dies.
The answer for question B overlaps with the answer for question A. In short, from a physical point of view, the answer is yes. However, this question also implies the metaphysical. Two main theses are the Termination thesis which is the view that people go out of existence when they die (Eπίκoυρoς/Epicurus was an advocate of this view) and the “Dead Survivors” view which proclaims that we can indeed survive death. The Termination thesis is pretty self-explanatory. On the contrary, the “Dead Survivors” thesis puts forth the dead animals argument, which is that we commonly use the term “dead animals” which implies that dead animals continue to exist as animals, albeit dead ones. This means that one continues to exist as an idea as he, the dead person, has no recollection of events after her or his brain stem death. Thus, the answer to question B is: depending on which thesis you ascribe to.
Finally, moving to question C, the arguments and viewpoints regarding it are pretty similar to question B. If one looks at death from a completely physiological point of view, then death marks the end of one’s life. Hence, the answer for C is: decompose or be cremated. However, in regards to a metaphysical point of view, one can “live on” in what is known as metaphysical eternalism . However, as this view requires non-dead people (according to the NHS definition) to have you in mind, if for some reason (be it natural or a human made catastrophe) humans cease to exist, then so will you, even if you ascribe to metaphysical eternalism.
In conclusion, regardless of which camp people ascribe to, Death is, to this day, the only thing we are sure that will happen to us in the end... at least we have something to look forward to!
I thank the 17th letter Q and the number 5 for helping to make me the Quenntis I am. But firstly, I thank my mom, my creator and name giver.
I was not destined to be born a South African Aquarian girl named Tracy-Lee. Yes, I confess,I had hidden the fact that I was the proud owner of a penis—I simply crossed my legs every time the doctor played gender detective. Only once my mom held her firstborn son in her arms did she abandon the idea of naming me with a T, a hyphen, and the wrong gender. She wouldn’t be dressing me up in the things she’ d purchased in motherly anticipation of a cute daughter born with crossed legs.
I was clearly destined for other things the moment I dangled into my mother’s view.
“Quintis, my boy?” she enquired of me.
The well-educated nurse at her bedside insisted, “You can’t call him Quintis.
He’s not your fifth to be born child!”
I stared back with curiosity, and a silent request: “Love me, despite my boyish faults.”
So my mother went for an adaptation, a slight variation. She looked deep into my eyes for inspiration and made up a third new name; equipping me with Quenntis to go with my Ashby. Although the number 5 must have stuck because my middle name starts with a V (the Roman numeral for 5), and my full name houses all 5 vowels. 5 has stayed an integral and oddly handy part of my Q name and my Q-filled life.
Armed with my unique name, I knew from the start that language was something powerful I was born to use. Words, meanings, and their tenuous connections were there to be played with. And play I did, and play I still do. All because of Q.
I know there are hidden tales behind and between our words: secret stories I can create or discover through reading and writing and dreaming; through listening to the music of my imagination. Words can mean what we want them to mean; and they can evolve, just as I evolved from my mom’s dream of a hyphenated female to my often-misspelled male reality.
In every Thank you I hear the echo of Thin Q. And in your Fuck you! I can hear a generous For Q! Your Haiku seems a nicely succinct way to greet me: Hi, Q! And Sudoku (the 9-numbers -in-a-grid puzzle) becomes Pseudo Q, the quasi-me (perhaps a 9-members-in-a-mind quandary?). When you say I like you! I know you like me and you also like Q. And if I do something I think is quite ridiculously smart, I tell myself I, Q, have a high IQ!
I am incurably curious and creative in everything I do because I can be, do, and write anything I feel inquisitive and passionate about. This is the exquisitely articulate life I was born to lead; and it all started with an unusual letter, a peculiar name, and a ubiquitous prime number. These fragments are all connected through my quintessential existence. Yes, a map of multitudes of non-acquiescent me in search of our treasures, our quintessences.
Thank you for our name. Quenntis continues to challenge and to inspire us to be better Qs. Here we remain, viewing this world anew with a prismatic sense of askew wonder. We ask you, “Do you believe, as we do, that you were destined to be born the person you are today?”
I am Q. I was born right on cue in the year of the wood rabbit.
Now I have become more than your passing acquaintance.
Here we are in tranquil queues, waiting with the other words for meanings and understandings to emerge from this body of lines. For this qualifies as the best kind of quantum quest—these muscular meanings and meanderings are beyond our quantifiable calculations.
You’re welcome to join Quenntis in mining for more Q ore. There’s no time for the passive quietude of self-accusation or the boring excuses of entropy. Excessive questions are welcome.
You qualify for the constant execution of consequential rescue missions. This life of Q is not a dream; it is a fulltime occupation with a built-in encore
Come, join the Q!
The art of questioning (and therapy) is never simply about the questions posed. Instead, it is about the conversation that takes place between client and the therapist, a collaborative process facilitated by careful questioning which remains purposeful and empathetic at the same time.
A therapist has to be fully aware of his/her thought processes and reasons in the questions posed to the client. The therapist has a variety of questioning techniques that can be used to evoke reflections and draw out answers. However, such techniques need to be used purposefully, and hence, the therapist needs to have good awareness of his/ her inner thought processes.
This is is not an easy task to achieve, as we tend to fall into our own habits and routines when we go about our daily lives. The familiar routines we automatically establish also serve a function: to free up our thinking capacity so we can direct our thinking (and brainpower, essentially) to tasks that may require more of our attention. A good example to describe this is when we multi-task: driving and having a conversation with someone else. Long-time drivers may nd such multi-tasking effortless due to their familiarity with driving in comparison to new drivers who often nd multi- tasking taxing.
As such, therapists also have to undergo training and clinical supervision to help them in building self-awareness during therapy sessions with clients. At times, it is also essential for therapists to take the time to re ect on their experiences with clients and continue building this skill of self-examination.
Even then, therapists can still falter now and then. We are all humans too. We take this in our stride, learn from the experience, and continue in our work to help our clients cope with their concerns and issues.
It is also important for therapists to have a good theoretical foundation before they start therapy with a client. The theoretical foundation provides the therapist with a structured approach in helping the client. The therapist works towards achieving certain tasks and goals in these sessions. These goals and tasks are structured within the theoretical framework chosen by the therapist, and serve as a map for the therapist in his/her journey with the client.
Common theoretical approaches employed by therapists consist of four main schools of psychotherapy: cognitive-behavioural interventions, affective/emotion-focused interventions, humanistic/existential interventions, and interventions focused on interpersonal relationships. These schools of psychotherapy have their own theoretical ideas, assumptions and counselling techniques that can help a therapist in conceptualising and planning treatment methods.
Nonetheless, the art of questioning (and therapy) is never simply about the questions posed. Instead, it is about the conversation that takes place between client and the therapist, a collaborative process facilitated by careful questioning which remains purposeful and empathetic at the same time.
A question I am often asked when I tell people I am a counsellor is, “Wah! Then you just sit there and ask people questions?” (pun intended).
It is hard to avoid asking your client questions if you want to find out more about them, to delve deeper into their inner thoughts and feelings, and even to challenge some of their tightly held beliefs.
However, the process is not as easy as it seems. It is not about having a list of 20 questions that I go through mechanically with each of them. It is having to be attentive and picking out the right cues to focus on and to redirect the interaction in a meaningful manner.
People assume I am great at conversations due to the nature of my work. Let me share a few tips on how to master the art of questioning and what goes on behind closed doors of a counselling session.
The opening question is usually the hardest. Have you ever been on a blind date and have to wreck your brains on how to not make the rest of the day awkward with the both of you thumbing your phones to pass the time? Imagine having to do that almost each time you see a new client, or starting a new session with an existing client.
Most people will start with an open ended question like “How are you?”, only to be met with the polite response of “I am good! Thanks!” and then having to find things to converse about.
It is a lot more engaging if you start by steering the conversation to a particular direction. For example, “Anything significant happened since the last time we spoke?” This gives the client permission to share what is bothering them and sets the tone for what is beyond a chitchat session.
More often, what is unsaid is more salient than what is said. If I notice a client avoiding particular topics, I would highlight that when sufficient rapport has been built. Saying something like, “I notice you speak a lot about your mother but not so much about father. Is there something going on there?” This means you have to be attentive to what your client has been sharing so you can keep track.
Of course, it might be unnatural to apply these to your daily conversations with your friends. But remember, the art of questioning is not just about the words you are saying, but more of what you are conveying to them. Regardless of what you say, it is about being attentive, keeping a curious and open mind, and not judging the other party.
QUARTERLY FACT: The letter Q is primarily dependant on the letter U to express any sound at all.
Can you think of any Q words without the letter U?
Quenntis Vernonn Ashby
A South African currently living and working in Taiwan, his MFA in Creative Writing is from CityU, Hong Kong (2013). He regularly publishes his lines online and offline. He’s a professional performer, teacher, editor, playwright, choreographer, and composer.
The Caterpillar’s Cove
A child development and study centre under NTUC First Campus, it brings together families, teachers, researchers and student-teachers who strive to discover and advocate best practices in early childhood education to promote children’s optimal learning and development.
first year student at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, her mother thought she would grow up to be a doctor but no, Lolita turned out like this. Lolita also likes cartoons and vodka.
Christopher Luke Collins
A lawyer during the day (and all through the night) hailing from Basildon, he drinks sugarless tea and enjoys a bit too many chocolate digestives.
Romanos P. Koutedakis
An undefinable character who has studied Mechanical Engineering and Philosophy of Science, he is based in Singapore and works for a big German company for the time being. In his free time, he likes to ride the LRT while wondering where it all went wrong.
A graphic designer based in the Netherlands, she is now pursuing her dreams to be a product and industrial designer. She loves chaotic and unbalanced things, and enjoys exploring various mediums into her design. Her dream is to give freedom to people and bring a lot of expressive products to life.
A visual artist who uses photography in his investigations, his research is motivated by the need to understand the formation of identity through mythologies and policy making.
A counsellor working in the SAF Counselling Center, she was a previously counsellor with the Singapore Prisons Services. All these intimate conversations she has with males of all ages will come in handy when she speaks to her 1 year old son in the future.
A counsellor who works mostly with youths and young adults, she is currently studying for her Masters in Applied Psychology. She enjoys having movie marathons with her husband whenever possible, and always appreciates a good cup of coffee.
Samuel Ho Lee-Roy, 7 years old
Samantha Ho Lee-Anne, 10 years old
Natalie Grace Yeo, 6 years old
Mark de Winne
A type designer trained in The Hague, he is now based in Singapore