Forest and Trees

I thought of calling this column, War and Peace, but reconsidered since that one’s taken.  Surely War and Peace, written by Russian author, Leo Tolstoy between 1805-1869, among the longest novels ever written and with over 500 characters, could be resoundingly considered by some to be “purple prose,” in lay terms, wordy.

So, why Forest and Trees, rather than War and Peace?  There’s a well-known saying, “you can’t see the forest for the trees.”  If peace is the forest what are the details (the trees), that we can’t get past, in order to reach the goal?

“Can’t see the forest for the trees,” is essentially considered an insult, not unlike “stop overthinking,” or “you must have OCD.”  It’s hardly diplomatic nor tactful.

Notice that I’m speaking about a twist on the saying.  Instead of forest or trees, I’m proposing a theory concerning the forest and the trees, taken together as a middle ground.  I think we need not stamp out one or the other, as inconsequential.

Are there many peace treaties being negotiated in Congress in America?  Or is there just one skirmish after another in a constant battle of wills; opponents fighting it out for who’s more powerful?

The basics of diplomacy require an exchange of details, a negotiation between elements of what I want and what you want.  What diplomacy is not, is one powerful opponent taking the other by force, that’s not diplomacy it’s war.  And, war may end in victory, but rarely, in peace.  War totally eclipses the goal of peace.

Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, China’s threat of similar aggression in Taiwan and our homegrown aggression between liberal and conservative, powerful elite and the rest of us, started this train of thought.  Here goes me turning international diplomacy around to something personal.

I have had a problem with being stuck in the trees within the forest.  You’ll notice I put this in the past tense.  One can hope, eh?  I don’t know about you but I’m a work in progress.

When a person such as myself likes words so much, it’s a temptation to use them all at once lest I forget one of the good ones.  In one of my jobs, I am an editor, a person who cuts the extraneous.  What a paradox and conundrum.

Word count limits have helped me enjoy the forest.  Prioritizing the details helps; which tree is the best? Using the first one or two details on the list and deleting three through twelve, helps.

A desire for clarity helps me to see the whole forest.  Rules, boundaries, and limits help.

Genuine understanding and acknowledgment from others – feedback helps.  Which trees do other people find fascinating?

Becoming annoyed at your own voice helps.  Stop, already.

Being ready to throw out the old, to stop rehashing the past and embracing the new and fresh helps.  Self-compassion and forgiving your own mistakes help.  Sitting down and getting real, helps.

Back to Putin and Ukraine, a bunch of leaders from around the world have approached Vladimir Putin, attempting to balance his demands against the sovereignty of Ukraine, to no apparent success.  The theory is, that when diplomacy fails, you don’t give up and concede to war. 

The late, former Secretary of State, Colin Powell once said, “incomplete victories that give an opponent a way out are often the best solutions.”  Diplomacy requires persistence, optimism, and imagination.

Praying that “somebody kills the man,” is just plain nonsense.  But we can pray for a tapestry to come together by weaving together an agreement between Putin, NATO nations, and Ukraine, with the threads of our mutual interest.  This requires concessions.  We might pray that the misconceptions which abound in the world become unraveled, and set up a new loom.

I feel like diplomacy in the world is rife with distractions and misunderstanding.  We truly need to get our heads out of our you-know-what and start to see the forest and the trees.

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