No Longer Resilient

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.

Driving logs down-river was part of logging in Maine.

Driving logs down-river was part of logging in Maine.

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Claiming Your Deck Space

A month ago, I decided to take a break from writing about anything overtly political. I’m glad I did, as the last few weeks have allowed me to step away from the shrill pitch and tenor of our national debate about which candidate (s) is less tainted than the others. Today, I’ll covertly brush up alongside the topic, albeit briefly.

Be careful where you place your deck chair.

Be careful where you place your deck chair.

Whenever you frame things in an either/or paradigm, you severely limit possibilities for change. Merely mentioning “hope and change” won’t alter a thing, unless you open up a dialogue vastly different that the current one centered on maintaining the American status quo. To do so would require all of us (not just the “other side”) to dramatically reorient how we think and ultimately, how we live. No one (save for a few) are willing to do this. Instead, we’re left with re-arranging deck chairs, to reference one of my favorite writers/bloggers, John Michael Greer. I’d highly recommend this week’s post, about merely “rearranging the deck chairs,” once more. Better, bookmark The Archdruid Report, and spend some time working your way back through what I consider some of the most thoughtful writing out there on the interwebs, about our present malaise. Continue reading

My Truth is Better Than Yours

Boiling every political argument down as being either conservative or liberal is a limiting critique—a binary straightjacket, so to speak. This kind of posturing has poisoned the current political well for sure.

What it’s also done very well is to create an undeserved smugness on one side, or the other. Where this smugness often gets exhibited in these heady digital days is on social media platforms—Twitter and Facebook, mainly.

Like the other day. Continue reading

The Search for Threes

I’ve mentioned the flaws of binary thinking before. The concept—framing things in terms of duality, or opposites—isn’t a new concept, and it tends to be the way that most issues are discussed in America and arguably, the West.

From a philosophical standpoint, the origins of this kind of thinking date back to Aristotle and Descartes. They first structured this type of logic, which consists of dividing, distinguishing and opposing items. When you see things in a binary construct, there’s no room for in-between or shades of gray; everything is black or white, good or bad, nice or ugly, good or evil, etc. It is the law of “all or nothing.”

Unfortunately, this kind of dualistic framework often leads to dead-ends, and at the very least, can divide people unnecessarily.

One of the best explanations and the one that really made me sit up and take notice, was written by John Michael Greer, and posted a few years ago at his blog, The Archdruid Report.

Greer takes the origins back even further than Aristotle and Descartes. He writes,

Most of the snap decisions our primate ancestors had to make on the African savannah are most efficiently sorted out into binary pairs: food/nonfood, predator/nonpredator, and so on. The drawbacks to this handy set of internal categories don’t seem to bother any of our primate relatives, and probably became an issue—like so much that’s part of magic—only when the rickety structure of the reasoning mind took shape over the top of the standard-issue social primate brain.

The problem with this snap-judgment way of seeing and making sense of the world is that in our current, non-hunting society, the binary framework eliminates the middle ground. In fact, we don’t even recognize a middle position. More often than not, it leads to division and conflict. Continue reading

Limiting the Conversation

Life in the 21st century is complicated. Everything seems to be moving at a faster and faster rate. We are bombarded with information, people are working longer and longer hours, and essential systems seem to be crumbling simultaneously, or if they aren’t crumbling, they’re being patched together with the equivalent of bailing wire and bubble gum. Continue reading

The Power of Words

I’m reading Death of the Liberal Class by Chris Hedges. The book’s been on my shelf for a year and for some reason, I took it down two nights ago and began reading it.

Actually, I’ve been on a bit of a Hedges kick the past few weeks, having reread his engrossing and enlightening, Losing Moses on the Freeway: The 10 Commandments. It’s a book about theology, or at least theological concepts without being religious—if that makes any sense. It’s at least a theology that is rooted in this world and one I can stomach. Continue reading

Dusting up over WalMart

Apparently last week, there was a major dust-up online between two seemingly disparate forces and writers. Gary North (more to come further down the page) took issue with James Howard Kunstler, peak oil iconoclast, anti-WalMart crusader, and writer. I respect Kunstler, I’ve read his books, and I even reviewed his latest book in January. That’s not to say that I hang on every word of Kunstler’s because I don’t. Continue reading

Waiting for the end of the world

Snoopy waiting for the end of the world.

Snoopy waiting for the end of the world.

Here we are at December 21, the supposed end of the world. As of 7:49 am, the world appears to be carrying on like it has for billions of years (or thousands if you don’t trust science). Of course all that could change at any moment.

Doomsday scenarios have been with us since the beginning of time. One of my favorite bloggers, John Michael Greer, has been providing a weekly feature at the end of what are always long, well-written posts. He calls these, “End of the World of the Week.” He’s now up to #53 and what these call to mind is that mankind has always been fascinated and gotten caught up in the apocalyptic. Greer also illustrates that these predictions have always proved inaccurate. But that hasn’t deterred another crop of doomsday prophets from setting up shop and making a new round of failed predictions. Continue reading