Over Memorial weekend, I finally had some time to put up my feet and do some reading. Lying on a book shelf was Robert Pike’s wonderful Tall Trees, Tough Men.
Much like Colin Woodard’s The Lobster Coast, Pike’s book offers a snapshot of a place and time in Maine, a state of vast natural resources. Pike’s is filtered through the lens of 18th and early 19th century logging. Actually, Maine was but part of a northern New England focus that included the logging stories and history of New Hampshire and Vermont, also.
Pike wrote his book in the mid-1960s. W.W. Norton & Company published it in 1967 and reissued it in 1999. It’s a book that all Mainers ought to familiarize themselves with simply to have a sense of what the state used to be—mainly a region of tall trees (and rivers to float them down)—with entrepreneurial types finding ways to turn logs into gold.
Because I was curious about Pike, I rooted around the interwebs for more info on why he might have written his book. His obituary (he died in 1997) from the New York Times was a worthwhile read for me.
It’s becoming far too common in our digitally-distracted world to think that life was always about tapping a touchscreen, rather than the kind of dangerous, back-breaking labor inherent in these parts 100+ years ago. Not all jobs included an “easy button.” Pike details the rugged, resilient men necessary for extracting value from the region’s forest resources. Likewise, Woodard’s book offered a similar story about the rebels (and rusticators) that were part of our maritime heritage. The threads are similar and point to a time of hearty souls, rather than the spleeny types dominating the present.
After reading Pike’s book, I was thinking about how best to highlight a lesson or two from what I’d read. One word that jumped out at me and a concept that’s gone out of favor is that of resilience—that ability to adapt in the midst of adversity and tough times.
Interestingly, as I was driving to the Y for my early morning swim, Rush Limbaugh touched on the term during his Morning Minute commentary on WGAN. Limbaugh mentioned that today’s college students lack resilience. A case in point—several calling 911 because they had mice in their apartment—and they didn’t know what to do about it.
Then there’s this article, about a resilience coach in Australia, being harassed for posting tips on helping children overcome bullying. So much for preparing children to make their own way in the world—being resilient, rather than helpless dolts.
Last but not least, John Michael Greer mentioned this lack of resilience (and not being able to learn from the past) in last week’s post. He writes about Brown University students complaining that school is impeding on their social justice causes. They complained to the school, and the school is looking for ways to allow them to have their cake, while also eating it. Or perhaps, carrying placards with slogans, while also earning a worthless credential, also known as a college degree.
We are living during an era of learned helplessness. Apparently time-tested skills and truths no longer resonate with people looking to blame others, pass the buck, yet being increasingly dependent on others for their survival.