Author: Campbell, Bruce

Paper or Plastic? Or Canvas?

Mark Twain is supposed to have said “Everyone talks about the weather, but no one ever does anything about it.” The same is often true about a lot of things that folks like to talk about. But unlike the weather, there are a great many things we can influence, but choose not to. We choose not to, because it’s difficult, or we don’t how to, or we just don’t need the disruption in our lives.

Talk is cheap – REAL cheap. It takes very little energy, or integrity to pontificate on the ways things are, and how we think they should be, but we all do it – this was the heart of Twain’s quote. Some very extraordinary people have had the courage, the fortitude, the energy and the will to make big changes, often at considerable expense to their wealth or wellbeing. I’m not that noble – I choose to make my differences in small ways.

Here’s a typical example: I understood a long time ago, that getting new grocery bags every time you buy groceries is not ecologically sound. If you’re like me, you’d save them to re-use them for something, and now again, you do find a use for those plastic or paper bags and you get a very brief, warm fuzzy feeling. But they pile up far faster than your occasional use can account for. So eventually, you throw away a bunch, and then they’re gone. But they’re not REALLY gone. They’re in a dump somewhere. Maybethe paper ones get separated out, but the plastic ones usually just get tore up and never degrade. Multiply my own output by the entire shopping population, and you get that big floating Texas-sized garbage island in the Pacific.

So, I bought some of those reusable canvas bags, but it took me a solid year to develop the habit of bringing them into the store. But I persisted, and now, reaching behind the seat for those canvas bags is a natural part of grocery shopping. They hold as much as 3 or 4 of those plastic bags. Imagine if the entire shopping population did this, and the impact it could have. It’s a small effort on my part – I’m not being Gandhi or Schindler or anything like that, but if everyone did it, the overall effect would be enormous. And it could happen, over time.

Where’s the bluegrass context? It’s right here: I see a parallel in the lively back and forth in the Message Board about Big Tent/Little Tent (and didn’t tents used to made of canvas?). No one person has the energy, the time or the influence to mold the future of the California Bluegrass Association. Lots of people have opinions, and that’s terrific. It IS, after all, YOUR organization. But kvetching on the sidelines takes little courage beyond pressing the “send” button on the Message Board reply form. There needs to be substantive dialog, and people HAVE to get involved.

You can define the future of the CBA. You want a little tent? Make it so, but be careful what you wish for. A little tent is not going to sustain big shows, and it won’t attract newcomers and casual fans. That tent is likely to get smaller and smaller as the “I like the CBA the way it was in 1975" people age and um, die. Conversely, if the tent gets TOO big, there’s no focus or continuity of vision, and it will cease to be a draw – you could have BIG empty tent, which is no better than a LITTLE empty tent.

So, the future of the CBA, if there is to be a future for the CBA, has to find a way to embrace the realities that face it. It will never be 1975 again – many of the dynamics that made that work are no longer in play. It’s a different world now. You can bemoan the differences from your front porch rocker, and maybe that’s all the energy you can muster. But that dooms the CBA’s future to a path of least resistance, like a twig in a stream, and where that ends up may please no one. Or, bright, lively opinionated, passionate people can find way to draw up plans for the Perfect Tent. And then set about pitching it.

Posted:  4/27/2011

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