A response to an RTÉ archival video of a forest fire on the County Limerick-Tipperary border (1986).
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it? Is a philosophical thought experiment that raises questions regarding observation and perception. It is a thought that evokes space and in this space we can create a landscape. Now that we have a landscape, we have a myth and we can plant the seeds of this story…
If a tree falls in the forest and my tongue is not waffled by the wind does this tree exist at all?
If I suppose a tree to fall, does that tree emerge from my mouth?
If a tree falls in the forest does my mouth need to be open?
If a tree falls in the forest can the tree exist in my throat? Does the tree have sufficient room to fall and cry “timber” up my trachea and vibrate against my teeth?
If I suppose a tree to fall must that tree take root in my grey matter first before snapping off and thundering against my cranium?
If a tree falls in the forest must this tree be summoned into language in some way?
If a tree falls in the forest must I find the words for this tree to exist? If I see the tree fall but I do not speak of the event until I meet another, is the sound created now or then?
If a tree falls in the forest am I presupposing that this is the forest we originated from? Is this the ‘heart of darkness’? Is this the remainder of Eden? And if it is, can I only think in allegorical landscape? Are all my thoughts and experiences tied to the falling of a leaf this way or that; to the dearly held belief that the trees sway for me and me alone. Is this my house of being?
If a tree falls in the forest does every word that helps us to understand what a tree-is-not fall too in communion with the appellation of the tree or do they raise and soar celestially abovewards, hang their heads, hold their hats and with a kiss on the forehead allow the tree to be released; crashing into the universe?
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it and it makes a sound, is this the one thing you fear most—a Cosmos without a Heaven; a law unto itself?
If a tree falls in the forest should that tree be planted first? You’re supposed to stick it in the ground, but it’s here in my pocket.
If a tree falls in a forest should we welcome it as a hero?
If a tree falls in the forest, but is a hand-drawn tree, the tree Darwin drew—in the span of a single wrist movement—the map of the whole of humanity, if that tree falls does the world cease to exist?
If a tree burns in the forest and the footage is uploaded to the RTÉ Archive, documented as ‘Limerick Forest Fire 1986’ but the footage contains no sound and you can find no other evidence of this forest fire, have—in this case—all the trees fallen?
If a tree falls in the forest does the tree desire to fall?
If a tree falls in the forest does the tree desire to fall down into the underneath where presuppositions disappear?
If a tree falls in the forest is this the season of failed kings?
If a tree falls in the forest does it breathe dirt?
If a tree falls in the forest and it makes a loud crashing sound, is that in preparation for the aches and pains that make it hard to be human?
Does a tree fall in the forest because after years of looking, the tree joins the chorus of suffering?
If a tree falls in the forest is it to tell the stories of the past?
If a tree falls in the forest and it makes a sound though no one is around to hear it, is it through this vivid metaphor, this allegorical landscape, that we come closest to understanding the fullness of this realm of being we find ourselves in?
If a tree falls in the forest and it makes a sound and I make a painting of a tree what monstrous phenomenological process entangles itself in my conversation with a tree?
Darkness creeps back into the forest.
A tree falling in a forest is a bad omen.
A tree falling in the forest creates vibrations and we feel vibrations.
- John Berger, “How To Resist A State Of Forgetfulness” Confabulations, (UK: Penguin, 2016)
- Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, (UK: Wordsworth Classics, 1995)
- Martin Heidegger, On The Way To Language (New York: HarperOne, 2018)
- Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The World of Perception (London: Routledge, 2004)
- Walter Benjamin, “On Language As Such And On The Language Of Man” Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings (USA: Random House, 1995)
- Yve Lomax, Passionate Being (London: I.B Tauris & Co Ltd, 2010)
Text by: Sarah Long