Wednesday, June 9, 2010

If a Tree Falls in a Forest

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

The nature of everthing we do is determined by the reaction it elicits. We teach our children based on this philosophy. We applaud good behavior and punish bad behavior. We laugh when a comment is funny, but gasp and shake our heads when it is inappropriate or offensive. What may be effective with one audience could coast over the heads of a completely different one. The tree in the forest is not only silent, it doesn't even exist without someone to acknowledge its existence.

For example, imagine a basketball game is underway, and the visiting team scores. This is bad. But it isn't bad because it was the visiting that scored. It isn't bad because it means the home team may lose their chance to move on to the finals. It's bad because the audience says so. They shout "boo!" and "come on!" and throw things. They throw their hands in the air in disapproval and shake their heads at the referee. They toss ill-conceived pieces of advice toward the home team's coach, thinking they could have better defended that play blindfolded than did the team they root for.

Meanwhile, the young children in the crowd watch all of this transpire, and learn that it is bad when the visiting team scores. They do not learn this because the home team lost their chance at the finals; they learn it from watching the reaction of those around them. When they grow up, their reaction will be the same.

However, what is a bad thing to the home team's fans, is a very good thing to the visiting team's fans. The reason the visitor's goal was a bad thing in the home stadium was the greater number of home team fans than visiting fans in the crowd. Had the visiting team brought more of a cheering section, it wouldn't have mattered the venue, their victory would have been good.

Similarly, where one person may laugh, another may take offense. We tend to learn this quickly, or take it into consideration when "feeling out" a situation, and tailor our speech for the group we are with.

From this phenomenon springs this question: If you tell a joke in a forest, and no one laughs, is it funny? Forest or not, the answer is no.


  1. You have such a way with WORDS!

  2. if a tree falls in the forest at the same time the visiting team scores, it creates a sonic black hole into which every faux pas enters never to be heard