The adage goes something like this: If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
The conclusion I have come to is — sadly — no. This experiment has all but proved this to be true for me. For the past seven years and change, I’ve written here under various names, personas and URLs [in reverse chronological order: mrlanphear.smilingpeanut.com, retrospecticus.org, smilingpeanut.com/cjl, smilingpeanut.com, chrislanphear.com, members.tromamovies.com/~clanphear and scribble.nu/chrislan] and no matter the moniker of choice at the time, this has, for the most part, been me at my most raw and emotional, with all the nerves exposed for the world to see. Nothing better [or worse] than my mind poured out on virtual paper.
I’ve always treated this journal as an experiment, something that would hopefully help me figure out things about myself — and perhaps, if there was anything left over after that — share some of these things with what has become a wide circle of loved ones, friends, strangers and everyone in between. In that regard, I believe I’ve succeeded; but unfortunately, many of the things I’ve learned about myself in particular have been unflattering at least, and damning, horrible and disgusting at most. It doesn’t bother me that I’ve learned those things, because I’ve given myself a chance to correct them. What bothers me is that it took something as public as this to force those changes.
It hasn’t been all bad. Some good things have come of this, and of my online experience as a whole. In part because of this, I’ve made some wonderful friends and been able to experience things and places I never would have dreamed of. In that respect at least, I can say I have no regrets. In others, however, this experiment has been a failure…
* * *
Out there, messages linger. Ghosts of radio transmissions drifting forever — echoes of words preceding the lives gone before. Occasionally they’re detected, picked up, transcribed.
Sometimes they mean something to those who hear, other times not.
Sometimes they’re lengthy, other times brief.
–Alan Dean Foster
You can beat your chest all you want, scream to the heavens and proclaim every fear, every desire, every triumph and every tragedy. But what you’ve come to realize is, if no one hears it, what’s the difference?
If you died tomorrow, you know damn well that you wouldn’t want to be remembered for this. You have people that love you, and you’re thankful for that. But you’ve made more enemies with this than friends, you think. That was never your intention, but it happened anyway. And the words remain.
Your glory and bravado will disappear. Some memories will inevitably fade with time. People wander in and out of your life. Some stay forever; some hang around for years and then seemingly fall off the face of the planet. You take a moment to collect your thoughts and you think about calling them, especially on this day of thanks, but then you realize that you wouldn’t know what to say because you’re scared and you don’t want to make a fool of yourself. You tell yourself that you know better, but there’s still a part of your mind that’s telling you, “If they want to talk to you, they have your number. If they’re not calling after a while, you have your answer.”
And then you come to the realization that the same holds true for this experiment and what it’s meant to you for the past seven-odd years. You don’t know what to say anymore. You’re worried that even if someone does hear what you say, they’ll get it wrong. You wish you didn’t put yourself through this. You think about your original goal, and how incredibly far away from that you now are. You feel like the proverbial gambler who should have just quit while they were ahead. You think about everything that’s been said here, and, perhaps more importantly, everything that hasn’t. You think about the few times you’ve made someone happy and proud to be associated with you, and, perhaps more importantly, the countless times you’ve said things you wish you hadn’t; but deleting an entry doesn’t erase the past, and that’s why you’ve never done it. Sometimes you regret this decision, but most of the time, it makes sense to you.
You’ve become irrelevant in this space. Your words here have come to mean nothing. Just as the tree does fall, the words remain, but do they really matter, or are they just out there, floating in the ether? There’s still so much you want to say, and by all rights, should say. But unfortunately, you and I have run out of time. I’m not what you need anymore. I know that. And most importantly, you know that. It’s time to let me go. Without an audience, there is no voice.
You needed the whole world to see so you could feel like you’re being held accountable because you didn’t trust yourself enough to do it on your own. But you know better now: the world can’t be relied upon any more than you thought you could rely on yourself.
This isn’t the answer you were looking for.