If a Writer Sits in a Forest and Doesn’t Write, Is the Forest Really There?

Now that may sound like a silly headline, but these days, metaphysical constructs and ideas seem rife across social media, as well as in the real world (yes, I distinguish between the two.)

We are programmed. Everything is programmed. From your earliest thoughts, you have been shaped to fit the world and the society in which you emerged. What to think. Manners. Codes of conduct. Rules. Regulations. Social mores, work ethic, goals, and aspirations, right down to the shirts you wear and the cars you choose to drive. We like to believe that these are our choices, but in reality, they are choices that have been presented from which you choose. 

“It’s a big club,” Carlin said, “and you ain’t in it.”


The late comedian George Carlin used to joke that we have endless choices for the illusion of freedom: just look at the cereal aisle in any supermarket, endless flavors of anything you might think you want, much geared to psychologically manipulate you. 

But the really important choices, such as politics, come to two parties, variations on a theme, presented by what he called “The real owners of the world,” the elites and multi-billion dollar corporations like Blackrock that own most things in the world. “It’s a big club,” Carlin said, “and you ain’t in it.”

Writers sit down and develop an idea, but the idea is not new or unique; so few things are unique, anymore. We present a spin on an older idea, updated to the current age, with a few twists here and there, and we have something new. Take a murder mystery—there are only so many ways to kill someone and most have been done before. Still, by redirecting focus to a compelling character, the illusion of freshness stands out. 

Reality. A word we blithely accept without too much thought. But what is reality?

One of my favorite authors, Philip K. Dick, dealt heavily with the quest to understand reality. You’re like familiar with the movie ‘Blade Runner’ and the sequel ‘Blade Runner 2049’. The former came from Dick’s book ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,’ which posited the idea of a future where no real animals existed and people like Deckard, a variant of a policeman, saved his money to buy an electric version of one, treating it like a prized possession. 

Dick was fascinated by what was, and what was not real. In one story household objects disappeared, replaced by notes that read: Fridge. Couch etc. In another short story, the ice cream man would come in his truck to the terror of the neighborhood kids, because when parents had enough of misbehaving kids they would call the ice cream man to take them away.

I use Dick as an example because we do not have a valid definition of reality. Subjectively believing that something is real is not a strong standard. How many of you have had a dream so realistic and so emotion-filled that upon awakening, it all carries with you for much of the day? Or is that the real world and this is the dream state? Can you prove either to me?

Another of Dick’s works ‘Total Recall’ from a novel called ‘We Can Remember It For You Wholesale,’ where you could have false memories of expensive vacations implanted in your mind so you can enjoy the sensation of something you would otherwise be unable to experience, complete with postcards mailed from the destinations you were never at.  

And yet another story, ‘Minority Report’ made into a movie with Tom Cruise as the lead in a Pre-Crime Police force, arresting people because three telepaths have foreseen a crime before the crime occurred. If you did not commit the crime but got arrested for it, how can you prove that the crime would happen?

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to witness it, does it make a sound? I add, ‘Does it fall? Is it really there? Does the forest even exist?’

Social media is rife with alien encounters, secret plots, and wild imaginings. Within those, there are many truthful elements, things that time changes from conspiracy theories to facts. How do we know what is real, anymore?

Did you know that all media is owned by a handful of corporations and that most anchors parrot the same words? This has been proved. You are fed what they want you to know. Nothing more. Contrarians, or those who question the narrative are shamed and shut down. We saw this during the COVID hysteria, and still today, although the number of believers has drastically reduced. The point is not what they say, but the fact that you have to accept it because you have no other means to discern the truth short of traveling to the source yourself, hardly practical.

Death is another reality question. Do we really die? Does our spirit continue on? Is this just a fraction of the real world, the red pill of ‘The Matrix,’ another movie series that questioned reality?  Or, as my mother would tell me, ‘Does it really matter?’  When something is unprovable, what is the value? My answer to that is to cite religious belief and the reality or lack of that somehow does not deter those of faith, while rejected by those prone to questioning.

As a writer, when you look at the sheer volume of written work dating back to the very first scribblings in cuneiform back in the time of the Sumerians some 6,000 plus years ago, you have to ask yourself how you fit in this giant tapestry of ideas and words, all written by passionate writers. And what does it all mean? And if we are programmed by our society, to believe that we have an element of freedom of choice, is it all a distraction to keep us from focusing squarely on the big question: What is real? 

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.”
~Aldous Huxley


~William Gensburger