Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Folk Fest Philosophy II

It's been a bit longer than I wanted it to be, but here is the second of my ramblings about the inspirational environment at the Edmonton Folk Festival earlier this month.

The second of the three lyrics that really stuck with me from that weekend was this:
Don't let the devil ride
This line is from a song by The Campbell Brothers, a rousing steel guitar-based gospel singing group that we had the pleasure of listening to on Sunday morning, the last day of the Folk Fest. The song is a cautionary one, saying that "if you let'm ride, he's gonna wanna drive." You can imagine the energy of the singers and the crowd as everyone sang the chorus over and over again, "don't let'm ride!"

In the middle of clapping and singing along with everyone that Sunday morning, I thought, this is such good advice. And I don't mean in the perhaps semi-literal religious sense that the singers may have intended. I find it good advice in a more general way: so often the things we end up doing and regretting are things we knew we shouldn't have even started. And things we know we should do, we just kind of let them slide. Instead of nipping things in the bud, it seems we just kind of go along with something because it doesn't seem so bad, not really. Especially not compared to what so-and-so is doing. And things go along for a while and then we find ourselves in a big hole, and somehow don't know how we've managed to dig so deep. Or how to get out of the hole.

The "don't let'm ride" metaphor works for me on small and big levels. Personally, on a small scale, it's what happens when I, for example, let a racist joke go uncontested at work, or take two helpings of dessert, or maybe don't bother to check the air pressure in my car tires because I'm sure they're just fine and I don't have time right now anyway.

On a larger scale, it's how we got into this whole mega-consumption mind set in the first place. The idea that things just can't run out, because hey I'm only using a little bit! What harm can it do? How does that saying go again? No snowflake thinks the avalanche was its fault? That kind of thinking is what prevents us from turning things around too, because hey I'm just one person, what can I do, and besides I don't have time right now anyway.

Essentially, it's the point of view that a little bit of complacency or indulgence just can't be all that bad. But little things do add up to big things, whether they're positive or negative. And if they're negative things, it won't be long before the 'devil' isn't just riding, he's driving.

Now just imagine if they were positive things each of us were doing!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

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