Last night I was attending one of my tech meetups, the Austin Interactive Installation Meetup group. A guest presenter by the name of Jakes Srinivasan, CEO of WorldBeatOnline gave a talk on his work in staging an annual music festival in Austin for world-music performers.
The talk was a delight. Jakes is simultaneously mature, serious, committed, vibrant, energetic, and lively. Several points were made that really struck a chord with me, and I wanted to share them here along with some of my own thoughts.
Despite his passion for the music (Jakes says he’s currently playing in no fewer than 7 different bands!), he sees the event as being about much more than music and musicians. He said he sees it as a platform for bringing people together of diverse backgrounds, races, beliefs, cultures, and nationalities. He stated quite clearly that his efforts are directed toward promoting world peace.
That’s not to imply that the music is incidental. Music is, after all, a universal language even as it holds the power to convey the particular flavors of a given culture. Music, along with cuisine and other cultural expressions, may well be the world’s best ambassadorial work.
At the same time, he and others at the table bemoaned the fact that while there are many good people doing very good work, too often we are in our own unconnected silos, and that we are unable to synergize our efforts more effectively.
This resonates directly with the work we are doing and the work we are attempting with Peace Dojos International. Good things are getting done, good people are coming together, and we have many tools available to us to show how to work toward peace. More importantly, we can say why peace is a pragmatic solution to many of the world’s problems — it is not just a pie-in-the-sky utopian delusion, but an inevitably necessity.
Yet we ourselves cannot always coordinate our resources optimally. Our focus is in the domain of martial arts, simultaneously ironic for peace-making, yet exquisitely appropriate. Buy-in from aikido schools (native for many of us currently in PDI) is reluctant, let alone from other martial arts. PDI is one focus area within Aiki Extensions, yet it is not clear to me how we can best operate as a coherent body without competing for resources.
How do we avoid the Balkanization that so often characterizes movements of any sort? Should we even try? If we are sincere about celebrating diversity, should we be concerned if we fail at unity? Or if we succeed? If we are about the business of extending, should we not also be attracting? Is it a problem if so many in even Peace disciplines cannot or do not work together, or is it simply a sign of a healthy ecosystem?
I believe we can and should seek ways to work with one another. I am most fascinated and excited by the biological relationships of symbiosis. However, I’ve also come to understand that it is not absolutely necessary that we MUST work together. It is possible to work independently and still not be unduly competitive.
Needless to say, in that spirit I reached out to Jakes to let him know of our work. Not coincidentally, he tries to stage his event near the United Nation’s International Day of Peace, September 21. So I told him about International Aiki Peace Week.
I don’t have any specific ideas at this time on how our groups can work together, but he was enthusiastic about our projects and said he’d gladly welcome a collaboration.
We’ll see where it goes. If aikido is the way of nature, it’s helpful to remember that not every plant bears fruit, not every seed germinates. What matters is that there is enough to constitute a vibrant, healthy, balanced ecosystem.
Is not that what peace really is?