My middle daughter (Alison) in Australia who’s studying to be a vet called my office on Friday p.m. last.
A: Where’ve you been this week? [Sister] said something about Tucson?
M: Yep. Went to the Arizona Town Hall.
A: What’s that – a museum?
M: No- it’s an ideas contraption. Appropriate you mention that, though – museums were on the program.
M: Well, Town Hall’s a policy think-tank, where the inmates run the asylum – a “wisdom of crowds” sort of concept. We were exploring the large-scale possibilities around arts and culture.
A: What did you do?
M: I was the mechanic; I tried to make sure parts of the contraption didn’t break down.
A: How did you do that?
M: I told some jokes to keep the parts lubricated –
A: I can only imagine how that grease ran.
M: Nevertheless. I also kept a timer on the little gizmos, keeping them rotating so that the big contraption didn’t break down. Sometimes, I patted the gizmos and told them to trust that the whole contraption would work if they just kept whirring along.
A: Hold on! I’m tracking this metaphor. You’re saying you told people to trust the process? You hate process! You’re the one who’s always ranting about progress instead of process, statesmanship not politics, the message getting compromised by the explanation –
M: Guilty. But today’s message, pardner, is that until you know the process is busted, you have to trust long enough to learn from it, even if the lesson turns out to be that the process is dysfunctional . . . .
A: So, did the process work?
M: Won’t know that until August sometime. That’s when the contraption’s ideas get rolled out in a final form. I think there’s some big ideas in the output. And some appearing small at first will get bigger over time.
A: Then you’ll get some strokes for being the engineer?
M: No, no, we had a smart fellow, Jeff, who was an engineer. He wrote down all the data on a long instructions sheet. Some other engineers helped him put together the total output. I was just Mike the Mechanic. Other mechanics got involved with the machinery, especially on the last day of the process.
A: So what happens to the big ideas?
M: That’s not up to me to say. The gizmos can’t stop whirring just because the ideas contraption was unplugged in Tucson. The gizmos will run the machinery of implementation, with a little help of some folks in some other wise crowds around the state.
It’s very good fortune for Arizonans that we have an asset like the Arizona Town Hall. There are lovely, really smart and determined persons attending every one of the biennial sessions. The Arizona’s Arts and Culture theme of the 98th Town Hall could not have come at a more crucial moment, when government funding appears to reflect an intention to throw onto the scrap heap initiatives to educate and inform the world about the stunning trove of physical and intellectual treasures that reflect the imagination and sacrifices of all our citizens inside these borders. Now is the time, if ever there was one, for folks to join the Town Hall (a §501(c)(3) organization) and to spread the word of the crowd wisdom emerging from the final Report. And, of course, after the Report comes out, there will be the opportune moment for each of us to help those gizmos all over our state to battle on, using those big ideas about arts and cultural institutions and coalitions and partnerships to improve our quality of life.