Wednesday, June 30, 2010

If A Tree Falls In The Forest....?

I remember this mind bender from a philosophy course I took in college and how I spent days, even years contemplating the question: "If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it still make a sound?

And now at 70+, I am ready to pronounce the answer. Are you ready? Yes! It sure the hell does! This week my son Miguel took my wife and I to Silver Lake, an old haunt nestled at about 8500 feet elevation in the heart of California's Sierra Nevada mountains.

Across the lake, stubborn snow patches still dotted the granite monoliths, the last of this year's snowfall.  The one's at the top melted into temporary channels, which then poured into their brothers beneath them, which melted into more rivulets running down to those at the bottom which finally melted into large streams emptying into the lake.

Varieties of ants rushed aimlessly (or purposely) about, some black ones almost an inch in length! But they didn't really bother us. Clouds of mosquitoes hovered over us, agreeing among themselves, not to bite. Or was it the insect repellent? Two lizards did combat over a prime location on a bare rock in the sun. Why, when there were plenty of other rocks all over the place? Is there a story here?

As I lay on a rock looking up at the cotton tufts of cumulus clouds drifting by overhead, it occurred to me that all things do everything they're supposed to do whether we see, feel or hear them. The trees in a forest, if they wanted to could just fake growing and dying and no one would ever notice. Most could be replaced by photographic props, backdrops, and cheap visual tricks and most of us could care less.

Yet, each living thing goes through its prescribed ritual when it could take shortcuts, condense, delete or add things. Why? Every passing cloud formed, connected with larger clumps, devoured its neighbors, and deformed exactly as it was supposed to do without cheating. Every wisp, and shadow was perfectly in place. Cause and effect.

So I too went through the prescribed ritual of my species of drinking beer, lighting up my pipe, and eating salami and cheese sandwiches. What choice did I have? I didn't want to make a fool of myself.

Thus, the question really ought to be "if a man opens a can of beer in the forest, does it still make a sound?" Don't ask me, ask the squirrels!


#167 Dad said...

sounds like a good day, rick.
was was it carlin asked,
"if a woman naggs in the forest and therre's no man around to hear her, is she actually nagging?"

Rick Rivers said...

Yes! There's absolutely no question about it.