About two weeks ago I was photographing chickadees on Iona Island on the Hudson River. And then suddenly came a gust of wind and a big dead old oak tree came crushing down just a few yards behind me. I jumped up really shaken just like the little chickadee who flew away.
That entire experience got me thinking.... You know, there is a famous philosophical thought experiment which goes like this "If a tree falls in a forest and no person is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"
And the precise scientific answer is NO. Because sound is an air vibration as transmitted by our ear and recognized as sound only in our brain. The falling tree produces air vibrations, they become sound only in the brain of a person. If there is no person to hear, there is no sound."
But there is an inherent problem with this technical answer as I observed the chickadee. Humans are not the only creatures to hear. In a forest, there is always someone to receive and process air vibrations, actually hundreds and thousands of creatures! We even know that other trees and plants and mushrooms can sense, process and react to vibrations.
The thought experiment about the falling tree was clearly designed by some arrogant anthropocentric philosophers all puffed up with human self-importance. Forest itself is a one great and constant dialogue of all possible creatures. Yes, it is more than a dialogue, it is a symphony composed and played and appreciated by an intricate lacework of forest creatures.
This Sunday we will rejoice in the Divine vision of nature in harmony. Join us in worship on this Second Sunday in Advent when we listen to Isaiah 11:6-10.