Why is the sky blue?

I can hear the peepers singing outside tonight. This unseasonably warm weather is confusing nature and its inhabitants. People are running around like it’s summer. They will be disappointed when the temperatures drop into the 20s during the nights in the coming week.

It’s hard to believe it was 80 degrees today. This week last year we got pounded with a snowstorm that dumped about 18 inches. I remember it quite vividly because I had to give a friend a ride home from work. It seemed like winter was never going to let go. It held on like an iron fist. There wasn’t a hint of this weather until early May last year and even then the constant rain kept people waiting for summer.

As I sit here and listen to the peepers they sound incredibly happy. They’re singing so everyone around can share the joy. A stroll down the road shortly before dark reminded me of my childhood. I walked the same route many times when I was growing up. I usually had a fishing pole in hand and I was always in a hurry to get to one of my many fishing spots along the creek.

Although I didn’t mind having company now and then I really enjoyed being alone. I found it fascinating to sit and listen to the silence. How can you listen to silence you might ask. Well, I just had the ability that very few people possess. Silence to one person might not be the same to someone else.

Silence to me was hearing the squirrels chatter as they scurried up and down the pine trees on the banks above the water. Silence was listening to the ducks quacking as they landed on the wide areas of the brook. Silence was staring into the creek and seeing fish dart out from under logs as they chased the bait on the end of my line.

No matter where I’ve traveled since those days I still have the ability to enjoy the silence of nature. It wasn’t until many years later that I was presented with a question I had never thought about.

Although my philosophy class was at 4pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, I always enjoyed going. I never knew what to expect from day to day. No two days were the same just as no two people are the same. While there can be many similarities everyone and everything is different.

The silence I had grown so accustomed to hearing was never challenged until one of those afternoons when I was sitting in philosophy class. Then my mind was instantly jarred like getting rear-ended by a car at the red light.

“If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it does it make sound?”…………and there it was. The question to which there is no correct answer was posed by the professor.

In my mind it was still silent because when I used to go fishing although I could hear everything it was nature’s silence that kept bringing me back. The noises around me were a part of nature and I never viewed them as actual sound.

Of course the next hour was spent debating the topic. Some people went through every effort to defend their stances while others listened intently to the arguments being tossed back and forth. I was one who sat and listened. I’ve always been intrigued by the way people react differently to certain questions and situations.

The class I’m writing about took place 24 years ago, yet I remember it like I walked from my dorm to the lecture hall just last night. When class let out I went to the dining hall to meet my friends for dinner. We hung out and time quickly got away from us. I always took the low road back to the dorm which brought me past the pond on campus. The pond was unique because it was in the shape of the state of New York.

Just as I can hear the peepers outside tonight, I always heard the peepers when I walked past the pond. When I began hearing them every year I knew the semester was winding down. It was a good but sad feeling.

Since that day in philosophy class I’ve always wondered what the majority of people believe when they’re asked that same question. I’m pretty sure most people would say the tree makes noise when it falls. It probably all depends on the connection you have to your soul and its surroundings. It also might have something to do with whether or not you like to argue with other people. Some people say black if you say white……that’s just their nature.

As the peepers gained in numbers and the semester winded toward the end that year I fought like crazy to get good grades. I almost tried too hard for which I paid the price.

When I got to class for the final exam I felt prepared. I had studied everything we had covered during the semester. I felt confident I could easily answer any question about any philosopher.

After people got settled in the exam was handed out. To my surprise it was only one page. I was in the middle of the lecture hall and there were about a hundred students in the class. The exams were handed out from the first row to the last. I couldn’t help but notice when one of my classmates sitting in the front row got up and left before I even had my exam. He was good friends with a friend of mine. I figured an emergency came up and didn’t give it much more thought.

When I got the exam it was only one sentence in the middle of piece of paper with no lines on it. The sentence read, “Without using the scientific formula to explain it, why is the sky blue?”

I used the entire time to give the best answer I could. When I was done I was very satisfied. About three weeks later we got our grades in the mail. I was excited to see a C on my report card. I felt as if I had earned that C. I told my buddy I felt lucky to survive the class because I knew many people didn’t do that well. That’s when my buddy told me his buddy (the guy that left early) received an A on his exam and I found out why he got out of his seat so quickly.

His response to the question was, “Why not?”

I’m pretty sure he got an A because he was the only one of the hundred people who decided to go out on a limb and challenge the question. He stood his ground and put down exactly what came to his mind. He showed no fear. Most people would have been afraid of getting an F.

I learned a lesson from that simple “Why not” answer. I realized that you have to challenge other people as well as yourself. If you believe in something you have to go full force without any fear and face the outcome when it’s over.

I’ve replayed that scene many times over the last 24 years and it still amazes me. I witnessed a similar situation a few years after I graduated from college. We were going through a computer conversion at work and an older man who was a great worker got up at lunchtime one day and said to the boss, “I’m going home.”

The boss replied, “Oh, are you going to go grab some lunch?”

Without raising an eyebrow he politely looked at the boss and without any emotionĀ  said, “Nope, I’m going home for good. I’ve had enough. I won’t be coming back.”

With that he walked out the door and never returned. He didn’t have a new job or any employment lined up. He knew he was at the end of his rope and decided it was time to do something new. He challenged himself to get away from the thing that dragged him down the most.

I’ve learned to value people like him and the guy in my philosophy class. We can all learn from people like them. When we know it’s time for change we have to move forward in pursuit of whatever will bring us to a better place both spiritually and mentally. Some of us are thrown into the ring of fire unexpectedly and we rise out of the ashes to heights we never imagined. Those of us who wait for the right moment just have to find out where we want to go and take the leap of faith.

Are you a frog who sits in the sun on a log or are you the tiny frog who leaps as far as he can to get to the next lily pad, which will help him to get to the water on the other side of the damn?

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