“If a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one there to hear it, will there be sound?”
These words are usually attributed to the Irish philosopher George Berkeley but the truth is that he never formulated such a dilemma.
The truth is, such a question (the famous “Dilemma”) is first printed in June 1883 in a monthly magazine called “The Chautauquan” in the Editor’s Table section as follows
-If a tree falls on an island where there are no humans, will there be sound?
-No. Sound is the excited sensation of the ear when air or other medium is set in motion.
One year later, on April 5, 1884, the journal Scientific American reformulates the dilemma and publishes it as follows:
-If a tree falls on an uninhabited island, will there be sound?
-Sound is vibration, transmitted to our senses through the mechanism of the ear, and recognized as sound only by our nervous system. The fall of the tree or any other disturbance will produce a vibration in the air. If there are no ears to hear such a vibration, there will be no sound.
Considering the answer to the dilemma: Sound is a vibration, we might think that if there is no vibration there is no sound. But what I hear in my head is a voice. Is it just a perception of my imagination?
Clues remaining in Our Childhood
Surely you have heard a young child speak endlessly, in an incongruous dialogue out loud.
You stare at it trying to decipher that impossible dialogue.
It seems that this same dialogue out loud that we formulate when we are just beginning to relate to language is in charge of building what will later be our internalized language or inner voice that helps us explain, analyze and order the world around us.
That dialogue that only takes place inside our heads.
From External to Internal Dialogue
In 1930, the Belarusian psychologist Lev Vygotsky had argued that internal dialogue was developed through the internalization of external language.
External language is the conversion of thought into words, its materialization and objectification.
In inner language the process is reversed: speech is transformed into inner thoughts, and logically their structures differ.
Internalized language is spoken for oneself, external language is spoken for others.Lev S Vygotsky, 1930
This internal dialogue is known to be accompanied by tiny movements of the larynx. In addition, it has been shown that the regions of the brain related to speech production, which are activated when we speak out loud, are also activated during internal dialogue.
Most people associate hearing voices with a mental disorder, with violence, with an unusual phenomenon.
Not all people hear only one voice, many hear voices that are not really there, others hear voices that are harmful to them.
70% of the time this type of sound hallucination is associated with schizophrenia. But not everyone who has sound hallucinations at some point has schizophrenia, nor does everyone with schizophrenia hear voices all the time. It sounds far-fetched, but it’s not.
By not analyzing how we behave, what happens to us and what changes occur in our bodies, we tend to stigmatize the physical and psychological changes that occur in the bodies and minds of others.
Hearing voices is an experience; it can be induced by a mood, an illness, stress or simply a way of dealing with problems. For each person the experience will be different and associated with different things. Hearing voices is a fundamental part of the human experience.
A very large movement has been created of people who accept to hear voices and share them. “Inner voices movement is an organization that aims to support, connect, exchange ideas, distribute information and encourage respectful research on the topic. This movement has become a talking point in the psychiatric community, since it does not approach the issue from the disease or condition of schizophrenia as the first instance. However, the movement has been growing and shares an interesting diversity of views.
The internal language comes in at least two different varieties. There is an ordinary verbal thought, an internal monologue that seems to occur in a compressed time, which we could actually say out loud without any inconvenience (we even do it sometimes).
The other main type of internal speech is slower, a conversation between more than one point of view, as when one is weighing the pros and cons of a decision. It seems that creativity depends on this last type of dialogue.
Psychologist Charles Fernyhough defines this type of dialogue (the internal one) as “dialogicality or dialogical thinking”. A dialogue between our different inner voices.
We are all a crowd and it is logical to assume that different aspects of ourselves will adopt different patterns of communication.
The encounter of medieval mysticism with God, as in the famous case of Joan of Arc with the angels, is, in Fernyhough’s opinion, another higher version of this inner dialogue.
When we were kids, while playing, we were spinning the external language, unraveling the world around us without knowing that at the same time, we were creating our own internal world.
I wonder how important the sense of play is in creating this inner dialogue?
Many times that dialogue becomes excessively critical, overwhelming. Is it precisely because over time we have stripped it of the game?
When I sit down to play with sounds, that constant murmur in my head changes completely, the voice becomes less chaotic and demanding, you could even say it becomes a bit silly or childish. While I play with sounds the dialogues that are created in my head are hilarious, even many times they are funny and I find myself sketching a smile or laughing out loud.
I think the game has a lot to do with it. The playful activity makes that internal dialogue return to its origins where communicating was not the important thing, the important thing was to conjugate occurrences, to use the words, to breathe, to imagine.
The inner voices are wrapped in a blanket of darkness in adult life. They are often apprehensive and demanding.
Why not talk about that incessant sound we live with and create since childhood?
Sound from which perhaps all things come, that makes decisions, argues, criticizes, confuses, invents.
Understand our primary storytelling communication.
To tell us stories.
Personally, any art starts from these small meanings, from these small encounters with oneself.
Author: Sol Rezza
Editor | Corrector: Franco Falistoco
Portada: Melissa McCracken Shades of Sound