Monday, 13 August 2007

Folk Fest Philosophy I

Four days of listening to fantastic folk, blues and world beat music has come and gone for another year!

The Edmonton Folk Music Festival is something that Gord and I have come to love and look forward to all year long. The music is fantastic, and the atmosphere nearly utopian. This is our third year attending the festival, and each time I am more and more impressed with the general goodness that pervades the event. People are kind and polite. They wait patiently in line and no one butts in. There is hardly any litter on the ground - you would hardly know that 85 000 people made use of the festival site over 4 days. I have only heard one person swear in the three years we have been going, and that was a performer who seemed to get the hint not to do it again when there was utter silence after his having done so.

I could go on and on about the recycling, the reusable plate program, the composting, the solar powered cash registers, the hemp baby clothes, but I what I really want to write about are three lines from three songs from three separate performers we heard this weekend. These three lines were simple but profound and I scribbled them down on a paper bag when I heard them, so I wouldn't forget. I wanted to write a little bit about each of those lyrics, over the next week or so. Today's profound lyric is this:
Everywhere we go, people like pie and ice cream.
This is a line from a song by Bill Bourne, called Pie and Ice Cream. Bill's partner in music this weekend, Aysha Wills, gave some background information about the song before they sang it. Essentially, Bill Bourne's theory is that since, everyone likes pie and ice cream, there should be a world wide program of trading guns for pies. Yes, guns for pies. Soldiers would be offered the pie of their choice in exchange for their weapon of choice. Pretty soon, everyone would be having a nice snack, sans ammunition. Of course this is ridiculous, right? It couldn't really work.

But when you think about it, war is about food. Abstracting a bit more, war is about securing resources and maintaining access to them. If everyone had enough food and water, would there be any reason to go to war? If everyone had what they need -- not what they want, but what they need-- I bet almost every war could be avoided. It is as simple as making sure everyone on the planet has enough food to eat and water to drink, and as complicated as redefining what "need" really is.

The Tao Te Ching has some interesting things to say about this:
Chapter 12

The five colors make one blind in the eyes
The five sounds make one deaf in the ears
The five flavors make one tasteless in the mouth

Racing and hunting make one wild in the heart
Goods that are difficult to acquire make one cause damage

Therefore the sages care for the stomach and not the eyes
That is why they discard the other and take this

Tao Te Ching as translated by Derek Lin
Overstimulation of the senses overwhelms a person (or a society) to the point where they are numb and can't appreciate anything but a continual influx of yet more 'extreme' experiences. Under these conditions, we think we 'need' all sorts of things, all the time. But sometimes these things can become "difficult to acquire" because we need so much and so many so often, to the point where we have to take it away from others. Then, the acquisitiveness "make[s] one cause damage." Damage = War.

The wise person, or society, will choose contenting stomach over the eyes every time. This I take both literally and figuratively. It is much more important not to go hungry than it is to have an 52" flat panel TV. Radically speaking, it is more important that everyone has enough to eat before anyone has a 52" flat panel TV. I'm not advocating that everyone sell all of their possessions and donate the proceeds to charity -- although that would be an amazing thing to do! I'm saying that individually and collectively, we have to get better at defining what we really need, and we have to acknowledge that everyone in the world has a right to have their basic needs met too.
And the soldier put his gun down, for pie and ice cream

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