If a tree falls in the forest and no-one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
If I go for a run, but I forget to take my Garmin and it doesn't get logged on Strava, did it really happen?
If I go for a day out, but I don't take any photos or record it on social media, and no-one I know saw me, was I really there?
I went for a day out in Harrogate a couple of weeks ago. I booked a session at the Turkish Baths, I explored the Valley Gardens, I went there and back on the train. But nobody who would recognise me saw me. I didn't take any photos, and I didn't check myself in anywhere on Facebook. Did I really go?
A lot of my life, experiences I've had have been with someone else there. Someone with who afterwards I can say 'Do you remember the time we went to X, do you remember that old guy in the corner of the pub who was grinning like an idiot at his phone?' It's an adjustment to have experiences that have no other witnesses.
I remember feeling quite vulnerable when my mum died, because large chunks of my childhood were only witnessed by her, me and my brother. Her death seemed to put more pressure on him somehow to be there to verify things that happened.
When I was married, my wife's grandma (who was in her 80s at the time) told a story of one Christmas, when her father presented her mother with a necklace, which he had saved up for years to buy. At the time of telling the story, she was the only survivor from that day. She would have been describing an event 75 years in the past. At the time it was actually happening it was witnessed by a mum and a dad, and 4 children. But now all of those people are gone. Where did that moment go? Does it still exist because she told me about it? What happens to memories when they're no longer stored in living people?
According to Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse 5, the people of Tralfamadore don't look at time as we do, with moments following each other, as beads on a string, one after the other. They can see all moments past, present and future all at once. As a result, all moments that have existed, have always existed, and always will exist. I hope that's true.
It's an adjustment to have moments, which no one else can see or verify. I think that's why the temptation is always to tell someone, even if it's remotely, via a status update on social media. Not doing that feels a bit like hiding, or living in secret. Maybe that's just because times have changed, and it's more routine now to take photos of everything or to constantly be updating statuses.
I'm pretty sure I went to Harrogate a couple of weeks ago. I could prove it if I wanted by showing you the booking confirmations and the entries through my bank account. I could describe it to you if you like? But you wouldn't remember it. Because you weren't there.