I have lived in the state of Washington for 40 of my 49 years. My parents loved camping and hiking. My husband and I love camping and hiking. Subsequently, I have spent a fair amount of time in the forested areas of Washington and our neighbor to the south, Oregon.
The trees of the Northwest are powerful, long-lived, and majestic. The inspire us with their appearance and are downright useful. They provide habitat for many animals, oxygen, shade, and prevent erosion, among many other things.
There are many uses for live trees. There are also uses for dead trees. The Northwest is a major supplier of lumber. Even nearby Tacoma, has the nickname, “Aroma of Tacoma” due to the odor of pulp mills, which is a perfume that no one would ever dab behind each year.l
Dead trees are incredibly useful. They are used to make paper, cardboard, and lumber. Lumber is used in construction. Lumber is even used to make toothpicks. We use a lot of wood in our lives.
Live trees are beautiful and useful.
Dead trees are useful.
Both statements are true.
There are also hard truths that accompany these truths, of which I was reminded during a trip to Oregon state last week.
The brown areas? They used to look like the green areas. This is what the forest looks like after a clear cut. Every tree is cut down within a particular area. Are there other ways to log that don’t involve taking down every tree? Yes, there are. But clear cutting still happens and from what I can see looking up at the mountain sides, it is still a common way of logging.
While in rural NW Oregon, I spotted about seven logging trucks just like this one in the span of about an hour while killing some time in the small town of Vernonia, which has a population of just over 2000 people.
Those logs are on their way to being made into useful products that we use on a daily basis.
But remember, there’s this.
The forest is alive with many living things, both flora and fauna, not just trees. And yet here, I just see a whole lot of dirt. There was an entire mini-ecology alive there. Now it is not.
Even clear cutting is not clear cut.
There are so many things in life that are not clear cut. Many truths are afoot in our lives, even truths that seem at great odds with one another. One term in psychology for this is “dialectic”, which is a foundational principle of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). There are a number of definitions for dialectic going back to ancient times. In DBT the dialectic is more closely allied with eastern philosophy, specifically dualism. I am no expert in this model but my understanding is that instead of looking at the world in terms of right and wrong, one looks at disparate positions and considers both to contain truth. To make a long story short, this can help people from getting stuck, move to acceptance, and get on with their lives. It does not mean not having an opinion or agreeing with everything.
I have been trying to engage more in dialectical thinking. Dialectics come up frequently in the breast cancer community. Cancer sucks! (True) Cancer is a gift. Lots of us have trouble with statement number two. But there are many people who do see their cancer experience as being a gift. From a dialectical perspective, I would work to accept both of those realities. I don’t have to agree. Both statements do not have to be true FOR ME. But I can accept that there is truth to both positions. For me, that is freeing. I can just be who I am and think the way I think without trying to convince anyone or feel invalidated by someone else’s seemingly incompatible truth.
Dialectics come up a lot in parenting a teen. My child has truth underlying wants and beliefs. My husband and I have truth in our wants and beliefs. We work toward what is called in DBT, The Middle Path, the way that honors both sides of the dialectic. It is not a simple compromise but often includes compromise. It often includes a lot of creative problem solving, knowing when to flex, when to stay firm, and when to provide opportunities for growth and change.
Dialectics come up a lot in American politics, seemingly every single second of the day!
Last week, two amazing things in the U.S. occurred. The first was a national outcry against the continued display of the Confederate flag in public places in the South, particularly on government buildings. Personally, I hate what the Confederate flag represents in my country. I am glad to see that public opinion is impacting states to take it down.
The other amazing thing that happened was that the Supreme Court of the U.S. ruled that marriage between same sex individuals is not only legal in all state and territories, but that it is illegal to bar individuals from obtaining a marriage license. I am very happy about that ruling. It is a monumental step in civil rights legislation. However, there are many people, a vocal minority in the country, who are very unhappy about it. There are some who are even calling for acts of civil disobedience to defy the law. I have seen a number of people arguing against this. People should follow the law whether they agree with it or not, is the argument.
Meanwhile, an African American teacher was recently arrested for her act of civil disobedience, which was to take down the Confederate flag flying atop the SC state capitol building. She has been hailed by many as a hero. I actually agree that it was a courageous act of civil disobedience. It could also be argued that she could have waited to see what happened. Legal wheels and public opinion, were arguably already in motion to get rid of the flag. On the other hand, she kept the topic alive and that is of some value.
However, why is one act of civil disobedience okay and the other not?
We could say, “Well, the majority think the flag should come down so then it’s okay.” Well, when Harriet Tubman was illegally freeing slaves from the South, lots and lots of southerners were not okay with that.
We could say, “Well, I’m just right and the other side is just wrong.”
Our legislative branch has held this stance for awhile. The people we like keep saying things that we agree with. “Yay! I agree with that!” The other side keeps saying things we don’t like. “Boo, what a bunch of idiots.”
Meanwhile, very little decision-making is getting made and the decisions that are being made are being done in a very inefficient convoluted manner.
Trying to be right all of the time is just a bunch of talk and no action. There is not clear cut path. There is no absolute truth at least one that we can fully understand.
Working under the assumption that truth is absolute is not very useful.
The Middle Path actually goes somewhere.