Saturday, May 22, 2010

Reality Check

I lay in bed, an unwilling participant in the earth's rotation as manifested by the room getting lighter.  The birds had started singing a while earlier, not in the least concerned that the earth was rotating.  They just knew it was time to sing.  My mind raced.  It's not readily apparent that my mind sometimes races - you'd almost have to be married to me to know that. But sometimes it does.

I remember once when I was 10 years old or so, my father posed the famous question to me: if a tree falls in a forest and no one was there to hear it, did it make a sound.  I said, of course it does.  He laughed, shook his head and said no, it doesn't.  I immediately thought, and I'm not making this up, "ok, we have two definitions of sound".  I didn't say this to my father, because I was 10 and I thought it best not to.   But I had had occasion to hear a tree fall, and it made a sound.  I saw no reason why it would not make a sound, even if I was not there to hear it.  It created the waves or disturbance or whatever, and had someone been there, they would have heard it.   However, if you define sound as something that has to be heard or recorded by a human in order to exist, and no one heard it or recorded it, then I guess it didn't. 

At age 10, and maybe still, I fell in with the group that held objects which had physical properties retained those physical properties, even if I wasn't aware of them.  For example, we have a very large Mulberry tree in our field of a yard.  When I look at it, I see it and I know it exists.  If I turn around I don't see it, but I'm reasonably sure it still exists.  When I look again, it's still there.  Furthermore, other people are aware of it.

There are others that hold the view that reality is created by consciousness, and without consciousness, there is no reality.  I don't know if they'd go so far as to say that Mulberry tree no longer exists when I turn my back on it, but they might, and they might be able to prove it mathematically, at least at a level they can understand.   I can see their point to an extent.  For example, there are a lot of people on this planet and I've never seen and never will see or meet the vast majority.  I don't know their names, their appearance or anything about them.  I am not conscious of them,  I have no proof that they exist.

Reality is a continuing stream of thought with me.  I've got lots more to think about, from the brains of birds who don't care about the earth's rotation to the possibility that on a very small level at least, a physical entity can be in more than one place at the same time.   I'll think about it later tho.  Right now, I'm hungry.


Grace said...

I love the firs sentence. This is such a thoughtful well written essay...I enjoy these very much.

Patti Anne said...

Well, as one who knows your racing mind and the mulberry tree both, I can tell you ... physical properties do not change appreciably due to observance or non-observance. The laws of physics dictate that the sound made by a crashing tree is the same whether "heard" or not. And, I ate some very delicious mulberries this afternoon, as did Pickles.

A Valdese Blogger said...

Grace: Thank you!

Patti Anne: Not so sure about the laws of Physics anymore. I think they "amend" them every couple of centuries, and it's about time again.

Heather said...

Wow, that is heavy thinking early in the morning. I think I need my non exsisting cup of coffee, to help me with this subject. Couldn't the other trees, birds and animals hear the tree crashing?