If a tree falls in the forest…

While I think I know the answer to the age-old question, it does beg another. If a writer writes, does the value of the writing depend upon the reader? Similarly, is music only validated if it is heard and appreciated?

There is something in these questions that dances around the much larger question about why…why write? Why make music? Is it for the creator or for those that absorb that which is created? And, if the answer begins to lean toward the one side…that it is really for the writer (or the musician), then why would publication be so alluring? Is it about connection? About being a part of something larger? So, perhaps, it’s really for the recipient, those who feel a connection to words they found that reflect something deep inside themselves?

A man said to the universe:

“Sir, I exist!’

“However,” replied the universe,

“The fact has not created in me

A sense of obligation.”

Stephen Crane’s poem has haunted me since college. I have always had it written somewhere nearby, either in a notebook or on a small piece of paper tucked away where I almost forget about it (or, one fairly complicated year, taped to the mirror I looked in each day). There is some solid truth in it that I have yet to fully comprehend. Or, maybe, I got it’s meaning loud and clear when Professor Ganz recited it in Introduction to American Poetry my freshman year.

I am struck, tonight, by tension.  The tension between opposing ideas. The tension between the speaker and his surprisingly specific response from an indifferent universe.  The tension between needing to write and needing to know that someone is reading it.  The tension between knowing myself and wondering if anyone can really truly know another person.  But even Crane’s poor, pathetic (I have always heard his demand as more of a plaintive plea)  speaker is connected to the aloof universe that still validates his existence.

Maybe the connections we seek and find through words is simultaneously tenuous and binding.  The universal themes we seem to find in each other’s words even though we may not fully comprehend the stories that deliver them inextricably links us to one another.  So, we write and hope for readers.  We make music and watch to see the reaction.  We reach out and know that we are not alone.


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