I had an interesting conversation with a friend this week about self-centered perspective and it felt like an important enough subject that I decided to blog about it.
So, my friend and I were taking a walk to the store together on a work break, and we were in the middle of nonsense banter, as is typical for us when we get to escape our desks. Then, as is typical, the conversation somehow fell into a more meaningful theological conversation immersed in humor.
How exactly this scenario came up, I can’t even remember, but it definitely fit into the conversation (probably). Anyway, he tells me a friend of his posed this scenario to him.
A living cat is placed in a sealed box, and you have to shoot the box. Is the cat dead or alive?
My friend, of course, argued that he won’t know till he opens the box. However, the person posing the scenario countered with this:
No, the correct answer is that it’s either dead or alive, whichever you choose, till you open the box. If you said it’s alive, it’s only dead after you open the box. If you said it was dead, but it’s alive, then you brought it back to life.
Basically, we have a new (and disturbing) twist on the debate of “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”.
I have always had a love/hate relationship with this debate. I love it, because it shows how deeply ignorant and self-centered humans can be. I hate it, because it shows how deeply ignorant and self-centered humans can be. No, I didn’t make a mistake in repeating that sentence.
Both examples above show the dangers of internalizing the entire world – meaning, taking everything in the world and defining it by your own understandings and experiences.
If you look at the question, “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” and you answer, “No”, you’re saying that because you’re not there to experience it, there is no possible way for it to exist at all. This is an extremely dangerous idea, and it causes so many problems in the world.
- You’re not gay, so homosexuality doesn’t exist.
- You’ve never been discriminated against or personally discriminated against someone, so discrimination doesn’t exist.
- You’re a man and feel like you’re supposed to be a man, so gender identity issues don’t exist.
And so on, and so forth…
Yes, if a tree falls in the forest, it most certainly will make a sound, regardless of who is there to hear it or not. No, you have no idea if that cat is dead or alive, till you open the box or it gives you some other visible or audible signal to its life.
Answering no, or delegating an end result without knowing what happened is a dangerous self-centered perspective. Just because you don’t experience it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
We cannot internalize the world – it’s just too damn big with infinite experiences, variables, and mysteries. The world’s greatest scientific minds have been trying to understand the world we live in, animals, humans, and outer space for thousands of years. Sure, they’ve learned some interesting things, but they still don’t understand even a small amount of anything. They’ve also been wrong about a lot of what they thought they understood.
Just because you have never experienced something, or you don’t understand it, doesn’t make its existence invalid. The world would be much better off if more people understood that the tree most definitely makes a sound in the forest, even if they’re not there for it.
Please, let the world exist in its beautifully incomprensibly massiveness!