Monthly Archives: September 2009

If a tree falls in the woods

You know that old western kōan, “If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a noise?”

This question was circling my head for ages and as what tends to happen when a thought circles my head it gets distorted. It usually happens when I try to sleep. After unconsciously repeating the same line in your head over and over “If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around to hear it does it make a noise?” it eventually becomes quite annoying. So after much tossing an turning and generally not being able to sleep, I attempted to get my head to quiet down by asking it: “If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around to hear it, DOES IT MATTER?”.

“Interesting!”, my head replied.

“Interesting!?”, I thought. That was not the response I had intended. Having blurted it out to get my head to shut up, I didn’t actually hear what I’d said. I repeated the question again to myself: “If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around to hear it, does it matter?”

I agreed with my head, “Interesting indeed”, and made the equivalent gesture of a nod that one would make when speaking in thoughts. We decided to work on trying to find an answer to the question.

After roughly 5 hours, we came to an answer we both thought satisfactory.

If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around to hear it, does it matter ?

The answer we came up with?

Yes, yes it does!