ON BASEBALL: STRENGTH INITIATIVE
Greetings Peter (and Hi Richard):
I imagine you are in China right now. Richard forwarded me your thoughts after our meeting. I took some time to think it over.
Peter, I am most impressed with what you are doing in Chiangmai and the concise encapsulation of our meeting. So thank you very much and we would love to have you join us at one of our meetings to discuss some of the ideas we batted around.
I like the democratic way of discussion and interaction you propose. Perhaps this is the time to see the community as the active unit rather than the person. It is the established traditional way of doing things in Asia as I am sure you are well aware, but one that is once again gaining some universal relevance in the IT era. We are also probably aware, sad irony here, that it is often not seen by policy makers and entrenched professionals.
When we think our Strength Initiative - "Fitness" conjures up too many images of spandex on ESPN2, "Power" might bristle some mustaches, and "Wellness" sounds good for you but rather awful tasting - we do want to keep baseball in the forefront. We don't want to get it lost among the many health initiatives in this part of the world, but we do want to leverage it in a holistic way. After all, we think of First Pitch as serious fun, on the premise that without fun, nothing serious can be achieved.
Peter, Manipur is a last frontier of a sort. I have yet to come across a civilization with its degree of doll-house minitiarization of culture. Its isolation offers intriguing possibilities in an Asian variant of a post-1989 Estonia for example.
There is naturally a part of me that loves my country and my people. But what jazzes me, is not 20th century nationalism. I say this because there is a nationalist conflict there as we discussed, that is tied in with the HIV/heroin problem and other health issues.
What I see is the the sliver of opportunity to play with ideas of 21st century interconnectivity and distributive potential. How can we use this for the re-purposing and re-envisioning of a culture? What you picked up on the functioning of the leikai, the traditional neighborhood, is very much the case in point. It will make people there "get" it, talk a language and use and revive deeply-embedded symbols. Without this, the culture dies. Now nothing lasts forever and we have no business being sentimental. But diversity is healthy and enriching so I do not see this venture as one for Manipur only. It is a lab with a somewhat different kind of culture if you will.
I would like the Strength Initiative to be as important in its process of becoming as in its product. Otherwise we bifurcate into the giver and the receiver - a somewhat heavy demand of legerdemain on someone already bifurcated like me. Our approach is two-faced: what is the best way to give? And the best way to receive? it has lessons for both sides I think, so it is not merely top-down.
We are thinking along the same lines for our ballpark too, hopefully a project in vernacular architecture that may, for instance, start with revisiting the local shaman's construction-manual-ritual. I would like the process of building the ballpark to result in more than just a nice field to play in. Because if it doesn't, the field won't stay nice for very long.
Perhaps the Strength initiative too will deliver much more along the way to good health.
Peter, we have some equipment donated to us. We have a team from the US Consulate making a trip next week to look into baseball in Manipur. What we are working towards is a one-week All-Stars Tournament within the next 12 months, preceded by a month-long training camp for about 50 players. We are working on a US coach going to observe, maybe train if we swing month-long visas. We shoot our film then too of course.
So how can we make some of the Big Over-Arching Ideas we have talked about work here? How can we start putting some pieces in place and begin our learning process? Can we use the coach, the camp? That's what I would like to think about with you.