If something was never perceived, did it actually happen?

There’s the thought experiment of “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” The scientific answer seems to be “no.” While sound waves are created as vibration propagates through air, no sound is heard because the waves are not perceived by a living organism.

As an extended question, if a tree falls in a forest and nothing is around to hear it, see it, know it, feel the consequence of it, past present and future, is it as if it didn’t fall? If something occurs, but no one sees it occurring, no one feels the consequence of its occurrence, no documentation of it exists, is it factually equivalent to that thing not occurring?

I always wondered if anyone actually reads these rambles of mine. After all, my writing isn't particularly literary. Does it matter if it's perceived? Does it matter who reads these? Do these words mean anything if no one ever reads them? Were they ever even written if their consequence is felt by no one?

So why do I write, if these words never meet a second pair of eyes? Why do I fight, fight the urge to sit back and dream sci-fi?

Well, for one, it might just be that I’ve sat back and done nothing for far too long that I feel like compensating for my unproductivity — the uneasiness that comes with unallocated time becomes unbearable sometimes. For another, it might be to procrastinate on things that are more productive, more urgent, as well as more evil such as homework.

But I’d like to tell myself that, as cliche as it sounds, I am fighting for myself. I write for myself, even if no one ever reads any of it. I read it.

The process alone is enough justification. Writing is the practice of introspection: the opportunity to look within and examine myself and my life. (For example, I realized just now that by writing, I’m basically trading unproductivity for uselessness, yay!) It’s also the practice of reasoning, bargaining, debating, or agreeing with the outside world. The practice of thought compilation (evidence to remind myself that I think, sometimes, I think). The practice of observation and sensation. The practice of self discipline and growth, etc etc.

Through writing, I learn. I create. I pour my heart out. I am lost and found. I open my book. I lie. I construct my convictions in this faithless world.

One of the lessons from internship over the summer is that, after graduation, the definition of a person becomes blurrier. It may be cynical or utilitarian of me, but while in school, there are things that easily and nearly conclusively define me: major, college, clubs, classes — all of which exist in a self-contained sphere. Those labels are either hidden or scattered upon entering the society. Your coworkers know about your work, your acquaintance at the climbing gym might know your athletic hobbies, your high school friend knows you sell feet pics online. It might not be a bad thing to have decentralized images, but it’s necessary to have a centralized, cohesive self-concept.

So perhaps behind my attempts at self-reinvention is the desperation to grab onto something upon which to hinge my identity, through which to provide the backbone for my actions, and with which to clarify who I am to the outside world. After all, “they only know what you let them see,” according to Saturday Nights.

The result of writing, thus, is reclamation of my own narrative. Claiming to define what I am on my own terms. Making my self-concept less dependent on others’ perception of me. Awarding more agency to myself.

To answer the earlier questions, which I don’t know if they are rhetorical: assuming that the tree that fell cannot perceive neither the process of it falling nor the result of it falling, and neither can anything else in that specific world, it is as if it had not fallen. But while fun as a thought experiment, this scenario isn’t particularly helpful for real world analysis.

In our world, there is always at least one agent that perceives, if not the process then the result, of every describable action. If no one else knows about your feet-pics-selling business on the internet, you know about it. You perceive it as you photograph your foot in perfect staged lighting. We cannot directly observe particles in the entangled state, but we can perceive the result by measuring the particles’ properties.

Even if these writings are not seen by others, they did happen because I experienced the process, and I can come back to read the result whenever I feel defeated or lost. I’m happy about that. Or, if anyone happens to come across them, they can try to solve the open book that is me, and perhaps feel touched, healed, inspired, or enraged, apathetic, dismayed — any kind of way.

I’m happy about that too.