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All That Is Fair: Flesh and Blood


If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it actually make any noise?  We’ve all heard that riddle before.  It can send your mind into pretzel mode if you overthink it.  I can’t presume to be an expert on such matters, but I can give you some thoughts on the question itself.  I’m sure the tree, when it falls, would displace other things, including the air itself, and all of those displacements would cause ripples of sound to go out.  But the question asks something different.  Namely, is the process of “making noise” truncated if there are no hearers?  Even if it makes a noise, who would know and why does it matter?  I think this is a very interesting question.  What good is a sound, an image, or an experience, if it has no recipients?  It’s like asking, “what good is a play without actors?” or, “what good is a king without subjects?”  Clearly this riddle means that there is something extremely important about how we interact as humans with both nature and one another.  It’s almost as if the simple voice of a falling tree has no meaning until it’s heard.  The hearing completes its purpose.  And then its impact can expand into the experience of others as the tale is told and retold and retold, etc… It’s a human thing.  Trees probably wouldn’t understand!

Being with nature (i.e. hearing the tree fall) is great.  The world around us is so full of wonder and epic beauty that it can move a man to tears.  And, as the aforementioned question implies, our participation in the physical world gives us occasion for enjoyment and praise to its Creator. This is the noblest end to which nature was made. But what of our purpose? What completes us?

We are not alone.  Our lives are woven as a web of interdependence on others, and, in turn, others on us.  It’s a simple and mundane thing, but what a profound wonder that you and I can actually enter into the experience of others.  In fact, we were created so that the only communion we can partake of, that is mutually beneficial to all involved, is the simple act of being with another person.  It is the remedy for loneliness.  And our purpose is more fully made manifest when we venture out into the lives of our neighbors. 

Johnny Cash was onto a similar thought when he wrote the song “Flesh and Blood”.  He penned it marveling at the majesty of Little River Canyon in Fort Payne, Alabama.  His meditation was “mother nature’s quite a lady but YOU’RE the One I need.”  The “you” could be a friend, a lover, or God.  Either way this song speaks to the need for relational continuity that all humans have.  We can be deeply moved by the world we live in, but we’ll be empty if we don’t have another warm body, set of eyes, unique voice, beating heart, and massive soul to echo our experience.  Falling trees can’t do this for us.  Only other humans. We cannot be alone.  It is, as Scripture says, not good for man to be alone.  Flesh and blood needs flesh and blood.  And that’s the truth!

“Flesh And Blood”

Beside a Singin’ Mountain Stream
Where the Willow grew

Where the Silver Leaf of Maple
Sparkled in the Mornin’ Dew
I braided Twigs of Willows
Made a String of Buckeye Beads;
But Flesh And Blood need Flesh And Blood
And you’re the one I need
Flesh And Blood need Flesh And Blood
And you’re the one I need.

I leaned against a Bark of Birch
And I breathed the Honey Dew
I saw a North-bound Flock of Geese
Against a Sky of Baby Blue
Beside the Lily Pads
I carved a Whistle from a Reed;
Mother Nature’s quite a Lady
But you’re the one I need
Flesh And Blood need Flesh And Blood
And you’re the one I need.

A Cardinal sang just for me
And I thanked him for the Song
Then the Sun went slowly down the West
And I had to move along
These were some of the things

On which my Mind and Spirit feed;
But Flesh And Blood need Flesh And Blood
And you’re the one I need
Flesh And Blood need Flesh And Blood
And you’re the one I need.

So when this Day was ended
I was still not satisfied
For I knew ev’rything I touched
Would wither and would die
And Love is all that will remain
And grow from all these Seeds;

Mother Nature’s quite a Lady
But you’re the one I need
Flesh And Blood need Flesh And Blood
And you’re the one I need.