If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Does pain still count if you don’t express it? If it exists only in the hidden places, in the fetid muddle at the bottom of your mind or the pinkening pressure of your eyelids, carved into nonessential bits of you that rub at the raw side of your clothes, does it exist at all? Does it matter? What matters is that hungry child on the other side of the globe. What matters is the mob, the milk, the rain cloud, the trigger. Survival in its crudest form. What right does a feeling have to exist at all and why can’t you beat the fucker null with comparative logic: you are here, safe, rich, sheltered; you are not there. What trick of the human soul makes you bleat when felled, like a sentient tree, to make a sound only you will hear in any case. Why do you lie there on the forest floor, wooden arms reaching heavenward as if you have a right to add anything but nourishment to the soil? You should be standing! Get your roots together and make a nest for the sparrows.

You have it good. Why do you need to be heard?

Photo by Russell James

Photo by Russell James

38 responses

  1. I ask myself this often, Averil. What the fuck is this whiny writing about, this bleating, when the things we know are happening are happening even harder than we can know. I figure there are two times. There is a time for living hard. For doing, for being, for feeling the insides of your mistakes, for screaming and weeping and giving birth, for striving and failing and falling asleep on the couch. Doing our best, as it were, in our contexts. Then there is this time. When we have chosen to withdraw, to write, to test ourselves in this quiet agonising way. I don’t have any answers. One day writing feels like a pretentious waste of space. Another day I feel like that straining tree in the light, whispering and hearing sounds.

    • “…in our contexts.”

      That’s the crux of it, really. I think people were made to struggle, and when life becomes too easy we invent conflicts of our own: drugs, disorders, unrealistic ambitions, etc. Something in the human spirit needs to fight, something of the struggle needs to be expressed.

    • In my kitchen above the back door, a sign has hung for going on ten years. Every women who reads it nods in agreement and every man ignores it.

      “If a man is alone in the woods and he speaks, and there is no wife to hear him, is he still wrong?”

      • I have a “huggie” that says something similar. “If a man is alone in the woods and he speaks, and there are now women around to hear him, is he still wrong.” Makes me and other women laugh. Never heard a peep out of the men. Maybe a sarcastic “haha.”

  2. Because people forget. What happens on the other side of the globe or happened long ago or may happen here is happening here. Right here. All the time.

    • I’ve been thinking about your comment since yesterday and can’t decide whether to agree or disagree. Which is unusual for me and kind of cool. I like an answer that leads to further questions.

  3. There is no excuse. I have no right. I am a foul instance of humanity deserving nothing other than torment and annihilation. I derive what comfort I can from knowing I am not alone in this.

    But I am to bear witness. Such witness as I am able. That’s all I’m fit for, so, true to that I attempt to remain.

    If all the trees in the forest came crashing down, would the sound of one be distinguishable in the general clamor?

    And then what?

  4. I wrote four answers to this, Averil. But honestly, I don’t have a clue.

    But we’re all in this together, so why not share a bit along the way? Entertainment is as valid as introspection . . .

    • I’ve been trying to go through these comments and answer them intelligently. But in my mind I can only bobble-head at each of you and say, yes, yes, exactly, that’s why.

      For the record, I am ALL about the entertainment value.

  5. I was raised to never bleat when felled — women, like children, were expected to be seen and not heard — which rule must have really pissed me off, because here I am. Bleating away.

  6. You have it good. Why do you need to be heard?

    There is no need, only want. And…don’t we all want for something unique and special? Whether it’s love, a child, a friend, or an experience.

    *Sidebar – strange, that picture looks like a female Elvis.

  7. I’m back because I’m still thinking about this. There is absolutely a human need to be heard. To silence someone is to say “you do not matter.”

  8. Ah, but why not be gentle? Why berate oneself unnecessarily? There is an impulse to be heard, and there are people who seem to want to listen…something about us humans (or at least the female version) seems to like to share experiences via the spoken word. And the why is only because it feels good, or a little bit good, or a little bit better…

    • Because to berate oneself necessarily is for amateurs?

      Kidding, of course. “…a little bit good, or a little bit better…” That’s it exactly. We’re all just trying to get through the day, and get each other through the day. Maybe it’s as simple as that.

  9. My little book of poetry (I just resisted the urge to call it strange) came together in my head with this very thought followed by an attempt to harness in words how the question feels. It socks me hard in the gut whenever I ponder it; then I wonder who I think I am that my reaction to it would even matter.

    I agree with Tetman about bearing witness. Sometimes it feels like all I can do, whether or not it’s heard above the din.

      • Me too! It’s getting there. Sis has had some freelance work to do lately which definitely comes before my book — because it pays. But she’s already formatted the flow of the pages to make it look decent in each of the ways it can be downloaded. On Sunday, my birthday, she’s going to work on the ‘navigation’ between the titles in the table of contents and the body of the book. (Thank goodness for her. The Smashwords instructions are way over my head, especially these days.)

        Tomorrow Sis and my daughter are taking me to lunch, so this weekend is full for her. She and I should be able to get together next weekend to get the thing uploaded. I’ll keep you posted.

  10. I’ve been thinking about this all day.
    Years ago I managed people. Every age, shape, size and color I was the boss. I was a good boss, a generous boss, a, never accused of being too humble boss, we had fun. My staff liked me because I liked them, I worked hard, they worked hard, we were proud. Years went by, I changed jobs, they changed jobs, they moved on, I moved on.
    When I see some of the college kids now, all grown up, more often than not, they’ll say something like, “remember when you said ( ), your words changed my life, or when you said ( ), it really helped me. Well boys and girls, not one time have I remembered what it was I told them and why it was so valuable; even if they repeated it to me verbatim. Frankly, I never thought they listened.

    It is imperative that we share our experiences and insights because as writers, we are examiners, we notice, dissect, mull over and make sense of that which exists around us because we have to, it is our art and our craft. We must make ourselves heard, because we can. We must share the wisdom of our observation.
    What we say counts. You may not know it but your words change lives, use them wisely.

  11. Sometimes I confuse expression with complaining. I don’t know if I could necessarily tell you what separates them. I do know that I don’t like being around complainers. They suck me dry. Being privy to someone’s self expression, however… that’s a beautiful thing.

    • It’s nice to see you here, MSB. I’ve missed you.

      I don’t know the difference between the two, either, except that some level of gratitude needs to exist in a person or I lose any shred of empathy. I think it’s okay, though, for people to continue to struggle even when their lives seem much easier than mine. As Cat said, it’s a matter of context.

  12. I think about this a lot. Wallowing in our perceived misery seems to be a luxury of the modern age in the Western World. I just spent a few days with my 95-year-old grandmother, who grew up dirt poor (literally, with dirt floors and two dresses to her name) in the 1920’s in desolate southwestern New Mexico mining towns. Those people worked from the time they woke to the time the fell into bed just to survive, feed, and clothe themselves and their families. They knew no other way to exist.

    Sometimes I wonder if they weren’t the ones who had it better. If I didn’t have so much time on my hands, would I even notice all these little unhappinesses?

    • I know what you mean. I don’t think they had it better, just simpler. And simpler seems pretty damn good sometimes.

      Maybe that’s why we’re obsessed with post-apocalyptic stories, because in some way we’d like to return to more straightforward problems, like how to stay warm and where we’ll find our next meal. Once every basic human need is met, we naturally move on to refining the complex parts of our lives. Which is harder to do, involving more interactions (and, oddly, the social isolation that comes with them), more frustration, greater incidence of living with failure (which you don’t have to do if failure means physical death).

      We are such odd little monkeys.