Wednesday, June 14, 2017

If A Tree Falls In The Forest And No One Is Around To Hear It....

Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody's going to know whether you did it or not.  - Oprah Winfrey

I was remembering today a co-worker from many years back; nice lady. Got the job done most of the time, and generally liked by, well, generally everyone I suppose. Nothing too remarkable about her duties or her approach towards them. She showed up mostly on time, and she mostly completed the daily things around the house she was asked by the family to do, and then she went home. That's about it. And I suppose that's okay.

But I'll never forget the day I set about to clean up the wine cellar. It was not, as I recall, one of those new kinds of wine cellars that are custom built and look like something out of Architectural Digest, but the kind that was carved out of the bedrock way below underneath the downstairs, like they did back in the day, the kind of cellar where the wine bottles live peacefully over the years with a few odds n' ends placed nearby, some boxes of old stuff, and some other things like, well you know, basement things, the kind of things that like to be pulled away from the walls every few years or so, to be vacuumed around and behind, to toss away some old paper cups or old pens or whatnot that gets dropped back there and forgotten about so long ago; to straighten up, or maybe to rearrange a bit around things just to see. It was the kind of space that I like to take care of, the kind of space that has some character.

"Forget about that. The Mister will never notice." And then she turned and trotted back upstairs to the downstairs, resuming some busy work in the pantry. And that was that.


I think there can be value in doing things where no one else will notice. And maybe that value can be just as valid as with those more noticed accomplishments, the ones where everyone, Mister included, seems to always, well, notice.

Here's some other random things I've heard over the years:

"Work out at the gym? Ha! I'm married now - the race is over! Besides, she loves me just the way I am."

"I'm too old to go back to school. It doesn't matter anyway; I've got references from some big names, and no one would even care if I had a degree."


I remember a documentary on TV many years ago, about the full-time sandblasting and painting maintenance crew for the Golden Gate Bridge. The interviewer was being taken underneath to see the enormous yet very well hidden areas of the steel complexity, the amazing web of interconnected beams - the areas down below which supports the beautiful part up above that millions of Bay Area residents and visitors see; the "downstairs" areas for the bridge I suppose you could say - the areas which only these four people would ever notice.  

And I'll never forget they were asked: "You're up inside those little hidden away areas all day. What motivates you to get into every bit and crevice, to make sure even those tiniest of areas stay perfectly refinished and painted? No one would every know if you missed a spot, right?"  The crew's foreman simply replied:  "The bridge would know."

I thought that was a great comeback line. It proposed that inanimate objects such as bridges, or maybe even basement wine cellars, might be deserving of our attention. Even if no one but the things themselves would every know.


But I'd like to take a lightly different direction here. I'd like to think that even if the bridge itself could never know, it's still a worthwhile endeavor.. whatever it is that you're thinking of doing this afternoon after your lunch, next week, this year, or in your lifetime. Because, I think, there's just something about going from A to B to C.  Not stopping at B and then calling it quits, but instead, going all the way to C. I'm not sure why, and I can't explain it, but I think there's some value there.

I think people can be proud of keeping themselves physically fit, even if their partners will never notice, and even if their partners will never love them more for having done it. And I think continuing one's education is a worthwhile thing to do, even if you now have a job that you like, and you think that you don't need any more improvement at this point in your career.

And call me nutty, but I personally think that a clean wine cellar... well, I'll just say it here out loud.... there's my heaven.


It doesn't really matter if no one hears that tree fall in the forest - and it doesn't really matter if it makes a sound. 

Because... it did fall

Because it did something and it went all the way with it. And whether anyone was there to hear it or not, and whether quantum science physicists can ever prove whether or not tree particles actually make a sound if no one is nearby to pay attention to the event, I think... doesn't matter one little bit.

Because it was still good that it fell, and still good that it followed through without any excuses about someone not paying any attention to it.

I guess you could say, that tree did the right thing:  It went all the way to C.


  1. Thank you Jim. Another positive about going from A to B to C is that it engages the mind to be looking ahead and forward in life. I have found that this is part of the mindset that people who live to be quite old have.

  2. Thank you for your comments! Best always, Jim.


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