The University of Chicago’s prompts for the application process are always strange. This was one was simply “Where’s Waldo?” so I figured I would do an absurd, intentionally wordy, metaphysical take on it. This was written last year.
Identity is fleeting. The mechanisms of the human consciousness are constantly deliberating over choices, floating from each happening to the next successive amusement. Present in one, we feel feeble until we stride to the next great occasion, all while feeling uneasy in the immediate transition between them. In a constant shift from our environment, we find ourselves perpetually in action. Fluctuating between diverse surroundings is a characteristic of the human experience – it adds novelty to the mundane, and it brings spontaneity to an otherwise boorish routine. In an effort to escape our own disparaging alienation, we find ourselves in unceasing continuous motion.
Correspondingly, Waldo of the “Where’s Waldo” book series is the epitome of such a character. Thereby, the absurdity in finding Waldo, and pinning him to his immediate setting, would be to negate his very purpose. The essence of Waldo is perhaps, at its core, a poetic interpretation of modernity, of alienation, and of movement. Likewise, we cannot truly find Waldo; we must take it that he simply is. The absence of his existence, or the difficulty in finding him, is precisely how we discover him. It is by this token we must accept that Waldo’s very existence depends on his absence from it. Permanently in ephemeral bursts of motion, Waldo embodies the spirit of escape. Ultimately finding him, and fixing him to his surroundings, would do his significance a grave injustice.
Waldo’s continuous displacement is one of mystery, one which very much runs parallel to our own. Ironically, however, we must delineate the true nature of Waldo’s movements if we wish to pinpoint the true significance of his location, or lack thereof. Because Waldo is not present in our ordinary perception upon viewing a setting, he is ultimately absent from our recollection of it. Thus, in each environment, Waldo becomes a character that is conceived solely on his nonexistence. Upon looking for Waldo, we make the delicate assumption that he is unseeingly there while he may very well not be. It is this contradiction that brings us to an enigmatic conclusion; If Waldo is nowhere he is, by logical deduction, also everywhere. Simply put, by making the very assumption that Waldo may be in every setting we come across; we imply he also may not be. Such is the fine line we must walk. As it is said — if you love everyone, you truly love no one. If Waldo is seemingly everywhere, he is also nowhere. Lacking an anchor to any one environment, he is eternally in motion and consequently ubiquitous.
Waldo’s incessant movements to new settings share a few common threads with our universal experiences. We previously concluded that Waldo is constantly in motion and therefore everywhere. When juxtaposed against our desire to move, Waldo’s fleeting experiences are similar to our own except taken to the utmost extreme. Although we do not shift as quickly as Waldo, we sympathize with such an idealist desire. Thrown into a world of alienating modernity coupled with the lingering dissociating elements of mass society, we oftentimes have the longing for spontaneity to escape the fixed present. It is this emotion Waldo capitalizes on perfectly – in the enigma of his ever-changing existence, we find condolence.
In the struggle to find our utmost identity, we naturally feel inclined to transform ourselves upon meeting a new environment. Riddled with boredom and monotonous routine, we find ourselves constantly planning, and patiently waiting, for the next blissful happening. Waldo romantically captures this human phenomenon in full. Waldo’s quick departure from place to place, and the mysterious aura of his ventures, both speak volumes of the escapist tendencies we all personally undergo. Our desire for novelties is captured by Waldo’s hasty maneuvering to new settings, although we very well realize he may not even be present at all. The answer, then, to the age-old question of “where is Waldo?” is simple to articulate yet remarkably convoluted in its message; Waldo is everywhere and, at the same time, nowhere. Such is the absurdist paradox we must accept for the sake of consistency. Waldo cannot be detained to a single location; in all its irony, Waldo simply and merely is.