1.27.2016

On Experience, or If a Tree Falls in a Forest and Nobody Hears it..... (a verbal essay)


I suddenly had a revelation about that idiotic cliché of a question — If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? It's a silly question as it assumes way too many things. And it can be parsed any number of ways — as a semantic question, as a matter of humanity's place in the world, and so on.

But it suddenly struck me that the reason it's persisted is because it's a profound existential and ontological question. If I experience something and no one else is there to hear it, see it, know it did it happen?

The answer, of course, is yes. Because we are, all of us, constitutive of the universe. We are this piece, this moment, of happening. But that's scary. It's the fear of death: we go through it alone, necessarily. Yes, there's an event of death that implicates those around us. But the experience of our own death is absolutely alone.

I want to draw the distinction, then, between events that are exterior and social and experience that insists here.

Social media testifies to this anxiety to be heard. The way we reach for our phones relentlessly — this supposed need, this urgency, to hear and be heard. But experience insists. It cannot be heard, even if it's never silent. Experience persists, insists, with you, as you, in you, of you.

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