Recently, I was granted permission by the Board of Directors of the International Wood Collectors Society to re-publish in a blog format the best articles from the pre-2000 issues of their Journal, World of Wood. In late January I started that blog with the minutes of the first meeting of the Society in 1947. It's a very interesting piece of history for everyone who has ever picked up an unusual piece of wood and taken it home, just for the sake of having it or using it in some wood-working project.
This week, I shared an interesting re-print of an article entitled "My Conception of an Ideal Wood Collection", by a member named Dr. Wolfgang Mautz. Coincidentally, the speech by Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to our U.S. congress this week gave me an interesting perspective on Dr. Mautz' contribution to the early Wood Collectors Society membership. Allow me to explain the connection in my mind of these two completely non-related events given sixty-five years apart.
Dr. Mautz' article was published, in 1949, in the newsletter of a fledgling organization that had one-hundred and seven members at the time, seventy-nine of whom were Americans, twelve British, with the small remainder from the rest of the world. Two were Dutch. None at the time were Germans or from any of the countries allied with Germany in World War II. And yet, the German Dr. Mautz was invited to share his passion for wood collecting with this group of folks who, in entirety, would have considered him "the enemy" only four short years before.
As I read Dr. Mautz' article, it brought back fond memories of another German wood scientist, one that had a profound impact on my career. I met Werner in my first year in the wood industry. He was the company's residing "technical expert" on all things wood, and I and my buddies in Temple-Inland's Product Development Center soaked up as much of Werner's expertise as we could. In addition, we got some great stories about his experiences serving first on the frozen Russian front of the war, and then later waiting on the French coast for the inevitable invasion of the Allies. He had been in university, studying wood science, when he was conscripted into the German army. He ended the war sitting in an American prisoner-of-war camp, which he said was the best thing that ever happened to him, considering the alternatives. Werner completed his studies after the war, and moved to America, to begin his wood industry experience at a fiberboard plant in International Falls, Minnesota, if I remember correctly. By the time I knew him, Werner had more knowledge about wood and wood products in his pinky finger than the rest of us put together. We knew it, and respected him for it.
I was re-publishing Dr. Mautz' article the day after Mr. Netanyahu's speech to Congress. Thanks to the miracle of the internet, I was able to watch the speech live in my office. If you're not familiar with the contents of the speech, it was primarily a warning to our government that the current nuclear negotiations we are having with the government of Iran were, to the best of his knowledge, not well considered, to put it mildly. The objective of his giving the speech was to let our leaders know that Israel considered the logical outcome of the negotiations to be a direct nuclear threat to the existence of the state of Israel...and he made a pretty strong case for that conclusion. The most memorable line in the speech was, that, "in the case of ISIS and Iran, the enemy of your enemy, is your enemy."
And in this case which he is so close to, Mr. Netanyahu is probably correct. Nevertheless, as I typed Mr. Mautz' article into the computer the next day, I found myself considering the concept of the enemy. Dr. Mautz had been an enemy of the other wood collectors in 1945; by 1949 he was taken as a colleague in wood. The love of wood, in a period of time shorter than President Obama has been in office, had overcome the hatred of war, and turned an enemy into a friend.
And here I was, re-creating a wood article from a German wood scientist in 1949 on the internet, that both my Israeli and Iranian wood science colleagues, as well as most everyone else in the world, can read in their own language, thanks to the Google Translate widget on the site. I've received emails relating to wood science questions from all three countries, and hope to receive many more in the future. And I suspect that none of these folks care any more about the political agenda of their leaders than Werner did when Herr Hitler drafted him to fight for Nazism's evil cause. I know I don't.
Thus my plea in the title of today's blog. Make wood, not war. Focus on the business of living, speak out against the rhetoric of violence and destruction, and actively resist those who would lead you into hating another enemy of their making. Making bombs and launching missiles is the easy path to conflict resolution, but not the best by far. For as Dr. Mautz and Werner both stood for, at our core, we're all really interested in the same thing...how to Go Wood, and get along.