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Month: August 2016



PRODUCT (book):  SURVIVAL OF THE NICEST:  How Altruism Makes Us Human and Why It Pays to Get Along

Author:  Stefan Klein (translated by David Dallenmayer)

Publisher:  The Experiment Publishing [2014]

Stefan Klein writes engaging books about big, important subjects.  His last book, THE SCIENCE OF HAPPINESS, was a #1 International Best Seller.  It won Klein the Georg von Holtzbrinck Prize for Scientific Journalism.

What Klein does is pile together data from a wide assortment of scientific studies in many different disciplines and then combine them with factoids from history and modern culture in order to look at some Big Human Question from many different angles.  Then he puts the puzzle pieces together and comes up with cogent answers that make a lot of sense.

All this dancing around encourages other people to look at and explore new directions (or resurrect old ones) that may lead to more effective ways of walking in our post-modern age.

It’s a lot like putting together a life-built poem, actually.


In his latest book, SURVIVAL OF THE NICEST, Klein puts together the current research on genetics and the brain, economics, social psychology, behavioral and anthropological experiments and just plain old common-sense real-life observations to answer a question that echoes Rodney King’s plaintive query, “Why can’t we all just get along?

The book does not get into the big moral issues about whether we humans are inherently “good” or “bad.”  It doesn’t lay a lot of shoulds and oughtas on you.

As Klein says, “There are already plenty of convincing systems of moral philosophy, and the only question is why we follow them so seldom.

What this book does instead is take a look at what scientists and other observers have discovered about human nature.  Surprisingly, these findings back up and validate what all the wisdom-systems of the world have been saying:  Humans are built to connect with one another and help each other.

Altruism, the urge to help others, is locked into our genes side-by-side with alpha-dog tendencies and the urge for autonomy.


Cooperation and collaboration were the tools our ancestors used in the distant past to upgrade human existence, step-by-step.

Our predecessors of long ago lived in caves and other nasty places and spent their time running away from lions and tigers and bears and placating bullying neighbors while trying to keep their children from starving.

Because our ancestors banded together and developed ways to work with one another towards common purposes, many of us today have been raised to a very different level of existence.

Now we live in cities, towns and communities that depend on the efforts of many good folks to keep them running right.

Some of us work on keeping the rest of us from killing off all the lions, tigers and bears who used to feed on our ancestors.

We’re still trying to find ways to discourage overt bullying tendencies that are also a part of our basic  human equipment, and we keep trying to find ways to stem an epidemic of obesity.

Klein says about all these scientific studies that he has encountered, “A central discovery is that egocentrics do better only in the short term, but in the long run, it is mostly people who act for the welfare of others who get ahead.

The “me-me-me” guys don’t get it all their way, it seems.


Any act of kindness has a ripple-effect that spreads, the scientists have found.

In one report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, there was a story about an incredible cascade of altruism that was triggered in 2007 by a 28-year-old man who decided to donate a kidney to anyone who needed it.  He gave away the organ without expecting anything in return.

The young man’s donated kidney was transplanted into a 53-year-old woman in Arizona.  Her husband, who was unable to give her a kidney because of incompatibility, offered to donate his kidney to someone who needed it.

The recipient of that kidney was a young woman in Ohio whose mother then donated an organ.

This chain continued.  Brothers donated because someone had helped their sisters, friends gave their kidneys because some anonymous donor had saved their buddy’s life. The chain crisscrossed America.  It ignored racial boundaries.

No one was forced to undergo an organ removal.  Donors often waited months to find a compatible recipient to whom their kidney could be given.

At the end of the study, there had been a total of 22 operations.

The last one reported was an organ donated by a young African American woman in Ohio.

None of the donors gained any personal advantage from their donation.  They were all simply acting out of gratitude that some unknown person had given back a life to their loved one.

Stories like this one show that kindness really is contagious.  People who see other people being kind to each other are more willing to be kind their own selves.


I also have to say this book is not all sweetness-and-light, mostly because we humans are not.

The Takers of the world, the Freeloaders and the “all-for-one-and-that-one’s-me” guys in the world make sometimes insurmountable problems in the easy flow of “all-together-now.”

Studies delineate all the reasons why the Dark Side of humans evolved.  There were good life-and-death reasons for it.

All of us are made of both sets of impulses – the lion and the lamb lives in us all.

How we deal with these impulses in ourselves and others determines how we deal with each other.

Klein is assiduous in pointing out the pitfalls of ignoring the actions of the ones who refuse to get with the program.  He even suggests ways to counter such self-serving moves.


As Klein says, this flood of findings by scientists can help us design ways to encourage people’s more generous propensities and discourage their thug tendencies.

Thinking on these insights can help us develop ourselves into individuals who can build the sorts of sustainable communities in which we want to spend our lives.

Klein lays out various strategies that help encourage and nurture the loving-kindness that lurks in the human heart.

  • Connection counters and heals the Lone Cowboy Syndrome. The more people can understand and accept that each of us is part of all of us, that we are all interdependent beings and we need one another, the better prepared we will be to share resources and help each other.
  • Long-term commitments and common interests promote loyalty and selflessness more than short-term arrangements do. The saddest commentary I have ever heard describing a person of my acquaintance was this:  “Oh, him….He only has NEW friends.
  • Fairness promotes cooperation and trust among people. Unfairness is fatal, as is allowing freeloaders to take advantage of a system based on generosity.  People are often willing to forego large personal advantages as long as they are convinced that others are being fair.  Nothing destroys cooperation as fast as feeling exploited.
  • Tolerance and respect for other people’s differences promotes voluntary cooperation while coercion and control (as well as specious rewards) tend to destroy it. Sitting on people’s heads will not change their minds.
  • Transparency in the public arena encourages right behavior. This works because cooperative people benefit from their good reputations.
  • Audible, public praise for even small contributions to the common good are often more effective than punishing malefactors in encouraging our altruistic natures to unfold.


I recommend this book as a thought-provoking read, one likely to have you coming back to it again and again.

Many of the wise guys tell us that we create the worlds in which we live.

In this book Klein presents an array of scientific proof that says we can, indeed, work to make a paradise right here on earth.  All it really takes is getting into the habit of showing loving-kindness to one another.

As Klein suggests in his closing sentence in this book, “The journey begins with curiosity.  By experimenting with generosity we have nothing to lose and much to gain, for selflessness makes us happy and transforms the world.



“Do no harm….”

The whispers of a thousand thousand years of wise guys

Beat out a rhythm in my head

Under the dancing light of Indra’s Net

That stretches into infinity.

A totally lovely concept, that…

A premise to dream on.


But, what can you do

When your determination to stand harmless

Meets an adamantine wall of arrogant idiocy

That insists on creating a maelstrom of discord and thorny prickles

That stab and poke and irritate,

That leaves a wake of broken dreams behind.

What can you do?


Ahimsa thrives among the gentle ones,

Who heed the call to hug and hold each other warm

Through sunshine and starlight,

Who dance and laugh in the rain,

Collecting sweet joys to share.


But then there comes one fool

Who insists on blundering about

With his eyes held stubbornly shut

Banging into everybody else’s dance,

Stepping all over everybody else’s feet.


Chaos spreads, spinning outward,

As this arrogant disregard

Knocks surrounding dancers off their feet

And into other people’s spaces,

And the disruption ripples across the dance hall floor

Spreading in widening gyres.

Ahimsa does not work then.

Like a flashlight with dead batteries

It cannot help to show the way.


And now you’re down to that one penultimate set of moves,

The one you always dread,

The one where you put on your gnarly troll-girl suit,

The one where you grab that fool

By the scruff of his neck and the seat of his pants

And you march him on out that dance hall door….

The “bye, bye…go-do-your-Saint-Vitus dance-somewhere-else-please” move,

The one where you throw away another piece of your own self.


And you know before you even start

That in the aftermath of all that,

When the hall shuts down and the floor is clear,

And the dancers all go home,

There you will be, sitting in the dark,

Crying for that still-blind fool

Wandering outside in the cold.

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  via

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In my own art and poetry, I am wanting a “Polynesian aesthetic” in my work … what I hope is a “native” feeling to it.  Even more than that, I’d like it to be a part of my business.

This Polynesian aesthetic incorporates three things – a high level of skill, indirectness, and mo’olelo (story).

What makes an object a work of art to me is a feeling that the thing is “special,” imbued with a sense of the person who made the thing and the place where that person grew into the artist he or she is.  Art evokes presence, I am thinking, and that is why it is special.

The process of the manufacture of an art object or the performance of some song or dance or story has to incorporate the history, meaning and cultural identity inherent in the artist and in the place.  If art is to be a real expression of the person who is making it, then it does have to be built out of pieces of that person’s heart.

A business is also a human-made thing.  Could it not be practiced as an art?  Hmmm….

The making of lauhala hats is an honored Hawaiian art form passed down from generation to generation.  Aunty Elizabeth Lee is the acknowledged best of the practitioners in Hawaii and she has been one of the people who has helped to keep the art form alive.

Many of the artists who are Polynesian tell us that in order to produce good work the artist must be “of good heart.”  This, they say, will “show” in the work.

In the hat-weaving, for example, anger and discontent in a person is transmitted through the hands and the weave shows a tension that is not there when the person is calm and at peace.  The hats get misshapen and lumpy.

For this reason, many of these artists seem to make the art they do into a moving meditation filled with ritual and mindfulness.

Ritual is an important part of the Polynesian aesthetic and when ritual is a part of the object then the object becomes an amazing thing.  It becomes an opening and a gateway to a world where everything is interconnected and the parts all move in concert to more cosmic rhythms than are discernible in everyday life.

Usually, when someone is learning an indigenous art form, at some point they will be introduced to the rituals involved in the making of the craft.

A touching You-Tube Video, “Weaving From the Heart,” is a documentary made by Alayna Kobayashi about weaver Lynette Roster and her thoughts about  weaving the lauhala, the leaves of the pandanus tree, into a hat.

The weaver in the video, Lynette Roster, mentions that the weaver “asks” the tree for the leaves that will be used for making her hats.  The weaver thanks the tree and also takes care of the tree which supplies her materials.

This, it seems to me, adds another dimension to the process of weaving a hat.  It adds gravitas, a kind of spiritual “weight.”

Since much of the cosmic, “other” world is hidden from direct perception it can only be approached sideways…obliquely.  That’s why kaona, the hidden meaning, is important.

However, kaona slides away from a direct gaze.

Making this way of doing things a part of modern life is a bit of a puzzlement.  We moderns are so straightforward:  Okay….there’s the leaves….grab a ladder…pick the leaves…and so on and so forth.  Ritual gets us making faces and going, “You want me to TALK TO A TREE?  HUH?”

It gets even more hairy when you’re trying to put together a business.  The hard-nosed bean-counters roll their eyes at you when you talk about “meaning” and  “mana.”  Still, the times they are a-changing.

Here’s another video…one showing Steve Jobs talking about  modern-day branding.

In this video, where Steve Jobs introduces Apple’s Crazy Ones campaign to investors and his top people, he starts from the premise that marketing is about core values, values that don’t change.

He says, “People with a passion can change the world….Those people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who actually do.

In this video, one of the best marketers of the modern age talks about “meaning.”  He’s talking about “mana” and how his company is going to promote some.  Interesting, huh?

Maybe “meaning” and “mana” has relevance in more than just the world of native arts and crafts.  Maybe it might have relevance for you as well.

What do you think?  Let me know.

Here’s another poem….


It’s a complex thing,

This trying to get back to simple,

Reaching towards the place

That is small enough for your dreams.


The details of a life lived out loud can overflow,

Flooding through you,

Submerging the shine of

The mana-bits that sparkle in you

In an urgent, onrushing tide of

Other-people needs,

Other-people wants,

Other-people dreams.


Holding onto even the memory of your own dreams

Grabbing hold with both hands on

The knowledge that you are on your way to

Your own place in that onslaught

Can be a battle against an overwhelming force sometimes.


But, in the quiet time,

When the ebbtide flows out and away from you

And the moon rises up over a calmer sea,

Your half-drowned self can

Sit on some lost and forgotten beach

Just listening to the wind

Soughing through the ironwoods.


If you’ve managed to hang onto that dream –

The one that gives your own life meaning –

If you remembered not to let it go

In the middle of the flood-time,

Sometimes you can catch the glimmer

Of the shine as it starts coming real…

As you start coming real.

By Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Hala (Pandanus tectorus) by David Eickhoff via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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“N.K. McCarthy” is a pen name that a friend who is a regular at the Maui Live Poets uses. She says, “Writing poetry, to me, is about capturing a thought, feeling, or idea, and putting it behind glass before it flies away and is lost forever.  This poem is about those rare moments in life when we forget our own name but remember we are part of something much bigger. ”



We close the door

And the world falls away

There is no distance

Not any more

Each star

Each moon

Each galaxy

Is at our fingertips 

And we are it

And it is ours

All of it

For now








In a pile on the floor

The intruder creeps across

Covering our nakedness

Stealing what is ours

Taunting us

To run after him


by N.K. McCarthy© 2016

[Please note:  If any of you would like to contribute a poem to this page, please let me know by leaving a comment below….  I’d be happy to hear from you.]

I ask three things of my guest poets: (a) a poem of your own making that has great meaning and mana for you, (b) the back-story for the poem — what inspired you or how you made it or whatever you want to tell about it, and (c) an image you own that I can use as the featured photo in the header. (The last is optional. I do ask that the image you share is one you own — either an image of yourself or something that relates to the poem. If you choose not to send an image, then I’ll go find something that works.)

Picture credit:  Kahului Lights from Haleakala Summit by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]


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OTHER PEOPLE’S OPINIONS: Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom)

OTHER PEOPLE’S OPINIONS: Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom)

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an understanding that the wish for other people’s approval makes you about as sturdy as a block of jello.  [The balance for that seems to be knowing where you want to go and walking towards it, all the while looking for obstacles and for workarounds.  If you do that, you’ll be too busy to worry about what They think….]

Other people’s opinions are so important to you when you’re a young person.  It’s like everybody wants to tell you how to bend yourself into some kind of pretzel or other.

Very often, it’s all done with the best of intentions, but the real is all that listening to other people’s opinions and following what they say just bends you out of shape and makes you walk funny.

You forget who you truly are.  And sometimes you never really do find out.


That video, Why People’s Opinions of You Aren’t Real, was put together by American actor, comedian and motivational speaker Kyle Cease.


Cease has been a comedian from the age of 12.  By the time he was 15, Cease was already a regular in comedy clubs and was a headliner at 18 years old.  He was ranked #1 on Comedy Central’s Standup Showdown in 2009.  The guy is good.

About six years ago, Cease started combining his comedy with speaking on “transformational” topics – things like learning to let go, the art of allowing and being in the moment.  He developed weekend-long impromptu performance/workshop events that he calls “Evolving Out Loud – Where Comedy and Transformation Meet.”

Cease spends a lot of his time speaking before large audiences at his college lectures, in seminars, and at corporate conferences and summits.  Mostly he “aims at helping people let go of their fears and anxieties to become more connected to the moment.”

His new book, I HOPE I SCREW THIS UP:  How Falling In Love With Your Fears Can Change the World, came out in 2017.


I think the underlying message of the video is an important one.  It seems to me that since the best and most valuable thing you can give the world is the real you, it is probably a good thing to find out who you are and go do that.

Here’s a poem….


When I was young and empty,
Stirring awake from my womb dreams,
I knew the shallow dreams of youth,
The ones They told me were proper
For my age and my circumstance.

When I was young and empty,
My innocence intact,
I reached for the fool’s gold plate
Heaped with the very things They
Had dismissed or discarded.

When I was young and empty,
My heart a-gleam with legend,
They force-fed all Their pasty-livered axioms
Directly into my cranium ’til I waddled…
Stuffed with their dribblings and drools.

When I was young and empty,
Tender as a green, exploring sprout,
They filled me with Their chronic hungers
And old dreams, as though
It were up to me to make them work out right.

When I was young and empty….
While I am no longer young,
I have become again empty….
I have vomited up Their convoluted hair balls,
Their tinsel-wrapped barbed wire knots.
I have spewed out Their old
And breathless rants and raves,
Expelled Their fruitless loops…..

Behind piles of detritus and debris,
The overflow of Other People’s Madnesses,
Is the door to my long-hidden, secret place,
The haven where the river of my
Own undying dreaming flow.

They wait for me there, the dreams,
Now that I am no longer young but am again empty.

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Sunrise, Sunrise by Chris Chabot via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

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For a number of years now I’ve played around with sharing little bits of thoughts on walking through the world – lessons I’m still learning.   I stuck them into my Facebook offerings and folks seemed to think they were cool.  I’ve got over 1,850 of the things (and still counting).


The IPS (Inner Peace Symptom) thing started because I was remembering a radio program, Our Changing World, by Earl Nightingale.  When I was a youngster I’d stop whatever I was doing to listen to the radio when Earl came on.  His rich and resonant voice captured my attention completely.  Apparently his thoughts sank into my own head (sort of) and they’ve influenced my own search for answers when I started looking.

Earl’s program was one of the most highly syndicated programs ever.  As a writer and a speaker he dealt with the subjects of human character development, motivation, excellence and meaningful existence.  They called him the “Dean of Personal Development.”

Nightingale was inspired by Napoleon Hill’s THINK AND GROW RICH.  It was six words that set him into motion:  “We become what we think about.”  They informed his whole life.   Earl produced the first spoken-word recording to achieve Gold Record status in 1956, The Strangest Secret.  He wrote books, co-founded a corporation, and had a radio show heard around the world.

This YouTube video, Change Your Life in 19 Minutes with Earl Nightingale was shared by Andrea Callahan International, Inc., a small business development consultant firm. Callahan’s mission, she says, is “to teach small business owners to eliminate the business problems that are personal problems in disguise.”


Earl Nightingale died in 1989.  His thoughts on walking in the world and doing business are as valid today as they ever were.  His clarity of mind is an inspiration.  His aphorisms, pithy sayings that take your head in new directions, are a joy.  For more on Earl Nightingale, you can visit his website:



My own efforts at making aphorisms and pithy sayings have been geared towards a different goal than Nightingale’s.  I want to achieve that elusive thing called “Inner Peace.”  Great and not-so-great minds have pondered on this for as long as humans have had minds, I think, and the effort continues to this day.  I’m just a beginner and prone to stumbles along the way.  The IPS things are notes to myself that I like to share with my friends.

For my own self, I tend to believe that the way to Inner Peace is through diving into the flow of the power of the Creative and dancing in it.  It’s the most human thing I can think to do – to play and help other people play.  So, hey, let’s play, shall we?

ANOTHER IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an understanding that the World is your mirror.  [Nothing you do is ever done in a vacuum; the World reacts to the way you are walking through it.  It’s like walking down a hallway that’s been outfitted with a low-powered laser security system. Unlike the movie burglars and spies, you can’t see the light-beams, but you sure will feel the effects of it.  So…what is the World showing you?]

And here’s another poem…


I am a tita.

I like living out loud.

In my life, I am determined,

I will be huge and proud.


I am a tita.

You can see what you get.

I call ’em as I see ’em.

You got a problem with that?


I am a tita.

I’m not too scared to sweat.

I work and play the native way.

I ain’t nobody’s pet.


I am a tita.

I’ve got “attitude,” they say.

I guess that just means

I don’t play their way.


I am a tita.

I will not creep; I do not crawl.

I am proud of being who I am,

And when I stand, I am a wall.


I am a tita.

Don’t matter ’bout my size.

My heart is large, my spirit strong,

And one day, I will be wise.

by Netta Kanoho

Tita” is pidgin.  Some folks say it is the equivalent of “diva;” others think it is more like “bitch-on-wheels.” I remember there was a company for a while with two young women who said the word was an aphorism for “Tough, Intelligent, Talented Artists.”  That company, unfortunately, is now defunct.

Picture credit:  Haleakala Sunrise by David Burch via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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“Mash-ups” is a new word for me, but an old art-strategy.  You mix or fuse disparate elements or types of media that don’t normally go together and somehow synthesize new meaning out of the mix.  This is what you do when you play with what artists call “mixed media”.


The word comes out of the music industry, from when a recording is created by digitally combining and synchronizing the instrumental tracks with vocal tracks from two or more different songs.  In computing, a mash-up results when a web page or application is created by combining data or functionality from different sources.

One high-flying definition says that you achieve a mash-up by looking at one perspective from multiple moments.  Mash-ups are supposed to “compress time but allow for a new sort of commentary, intention and irony to emerge”….it says here.  (I’m still trying to figure out what that means.)


My own thought is that mash-ups are a particularly Hawaiian concept.  In the traditional mele (song), two ideas are jammed up next to each other and allowed to resonate, to serve as metaphors for each other which produces in the listener a feeling of glimpsing at a secret third idea that connects the two original ones.  Names of places evoke particular legends or stories or feelings.  Pile other images of the plants, the weather, and other environmental elements for which a particular place is noted on top of that and you multiply the power of the feelings.

An example of that would be a song that honors a particular wind that blows under certain conditions and only in Hana.  Referencing the wind calls up a feeling of the Hana-ness of it all.


One thing that is essential for helping the mash-up do its work properly is the use of “hooks.”  These are themes like cynicism, humor, angst, irony, aggression, sex, or sincerity.  Just like building a poem.

This poem was an answer to one of the challenges we give ourselves in the Maui Live Poets Society.  We had a featured guest poet who gave us a “spoken poem,” a particular form of poetry that requires you to speak the poem before a group from memory.  The guest poet gave us a twelve-minute poem!  It was mind-boggling.

I practiced particularly hard on this one.  (Memorization is not my forte.)  I did it, though; I was proud of myself.  The poem, of course, was a protest.  There are a number of words that are probably unfamiliar to many of you.  I’ll explain them at the end of the poem.


(A Spoken Poem)


I understand this spoken poem thing is “traditional” and all,

An art form sanctified through the ages

As a conduit from the Creative

Through the poet,

To the audience.

But, I’ve gotta tell ya,

I tend to avoid it…for good reason.


Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Hawaiian…that’s me. 

TRA-dition…‘as how.

Speaking from the heart…

‘Alelu, ‘alelu…oh, yeah.


But all this jazz feels unfiltered to me.

The gateway gapes wide open

And I am not so sure

That the thoughts on the other side of it

Are particularly street-legal.

It feels raw, somehow.


And you know what?

I like poke, and I like sashimi,

But you get different tastes

When you mix ’em up and cook ’em good.


I can’t help thinking

That all those ancient master poets,

Our kumu haku mele, are dead already.

And I am not so skilled at metaphor and kaona

(The hidden meanings)

To sing in layers as they did.


All our oral traditions never saved us

From the power of those silly-ass markings

On the palapala – the paper –

That now covers over all the stones,

The food of the land that

The old ones were willing to eat.

So, hey…


No thank you.


Me, I’ll just keep speaking my heart once-removed.

I’ll write down my thoughts and cook them up fine,

And I’ll read them out loud,

Serving them up pretty.

From behind the veil of obfuscating scribbles,

I will even make them dance.


‘Cause you know,

This other way of singing…

It just breaks my heart,

And I would certainly take that out on you.

‘As how” is pidgin for “that’s the way it is.” ” ‘Alelu” is Hawaiian for “hallelujah.”  “Poke” and “sashimi”  are both raw-fish dishes.  “Kumu haku mele” is a master song- and story-writer.  “Kaona” means “hidden meaning.” “Palapala” is “paper,” particularly legal documents.

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit: Mixed Media – Opening Patterns by Andreas Lehner via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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Oh, here’s a biggie.  I’ve been re-reading Po Bronson’s WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH MY LIFE?:  The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question.  Every time I do I find something.  Bronson makes a case for the fact that “What should I do with my life?” is the modern, secular version of the great timeless questions about our identity, such as “Who am I?” and “Where do I belong?”

He says the “bottom-line reality” is that we can search for identity only so long without making ends meet.  Being a “seeker” does seem to imply that you never FIND anything…otherwise, why would you keep on seeking?  However, that isn’t the whole story.

Asking yourself “What should I do with my life?” is a step forward towards ending the conflict between who you are and what you do.  Answering the question is a way to protect yourself from being ground up (or down) into someone you just are not.

It is not a question for the faint-hearted.  It is not a question only for the young.  It is one that has to be asked again and again as life progresses.  It is an integral part, as Patrice Ouelet (the photographer whose image I am using in the header for this thing) , of that most human of quests, “…the quest for certainty to be confirmed, or to the opposite, the quest motivated by doubt.”  Ouelet says about this quest, “There is no more powerful force in humans….”


For over two years, Po Bronson interviewed more than 900 people and turned those interviews into his book, WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH MY LIFE.  Since it was published in 2002, it has been a source of inspiration for many people.

One of those people who were inspired by the book was professional photographer James Light.  He began making short films on YouTube after reading Bronson’s book.  (You can get his full story by CLICKING HERE.)

As “Gorilla Filmmaker Now,” Light made a series of YouTube films inspired by Po Bronson’s question.  One episode was this one about author, presenter and columnist Natalie Fee.

Light gathered many of these stories of personal empowerment over time, between his YouTube offerings which have been seen by thousands of viewers, and his own professional work that focused on the efforts of groups working for change.

His endeavor has entered a new phase now.  His latest work is a film called, “What’s Your Story?”  To make it, he’s on a quest to collect the stories of people who have asked what he calls “the ultimate question.”  He encourages people to start a conversation with him about their answers to the question and where it has taken them.

Light intends to share the stories he is gathering with the world, in the hope that using the power of story will allow us collectively to gain wisdom and perhaps to change the world.  It is, I am thinking, a very good goal.


There’s a second good Bronson question which didn’t get as much air-time as the titular one.  He tells us, “The right question is not, ‘What’s the Crap Factor?’  The right question is, ‘How can I find something that moves my heart, so that the inevitable crap storm is bearable?'”

This, too, is a good question to ponder….

Here’s a poem that’s on the way to an answer.

Aw, okay, I admit it…this one’s just a bit of whining on the way.  (I figure the whining’s just as real and as human as the triumphal march….)


‘Kay, fine den…FINE!


There are no shortcuts to wisdom,

No “beam-me-up-Scotty” trips

That will materialize me

Into self-awareness and self-knowledge.


I really tried that honey-dipped Seeker stuff,

The one where you wish yourself to bliss,

And dance around all joyous in the buff

And turn your face like a flower to the sun,

Ignoring all the pain and suffering in the world,

Because, hey…that’s Ne-ga-tive!

(Never mind if your heart turns into a raisin!)


I’m here to tell ya:

Cuter abysses do not mystically, magically appear,

And three-day spa-wilderness experiences

(Replete with trance drummers)

Make you feel marvelous,

But they don’t actually change anything.

It doesn’t work that way,

And I do so resent it.


And those strutting success-merchants?


I was being GOOD at things, ya know…

I was being most excellent at momentum,

Extraordinary at forward thrust.

I can climb up ladders like nobody’s business

And stay one step ahead of that

Gaping Void dogging my heels.

I can build those fairy castles all over the sky –

A whole subdivision, you bet.

I can…

I can…

I can…


Except that then I’m just this impossibly small package

All tied up tightly into myself –

Just a cute little ball of rubberbands,

Not even hiding a secret, wondrous core…

Just the me I agreed to be.


The wise guys say:

Sit still.

Dig deep.

And let it all hang out.


I’ve got just one problem with that one.

I do not LIKE the practice messes.

False starts and flat-out blunders

Make me grind my teeth in consternation.

Why don’t I do it right?

What am I doing wrong?


I HATE be-bopping from pillar to post.

I detest the detours that wander

All over the landscape through

Misty bogs full of quicksand

And over mountains and lava fields

Just chock-a-block with deep fissures and tubes

That, if you fall down them, mean

You land broken in the dark.


I really think I want a refund.

There’s only one ticket to ride the rocket

To the me I’m supposed to be,

And the durned thing costs everything.



by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  The Quest (la quête) by patrice-photographiste via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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Wide Garcia is a co-founder of the Maui Live Poets Society and is the fearless leader of our group who meets in the Makawao Library on the third Wednesday of every month. He had this to say about this poem he wanted to share:

“I watched a woman in Lahaina raking leaves, and the wind kept blowing the leaves back.  It made me think how automatic she was being and perhaps attached to busyness.  After this thought became my first line, I later saw a man mowing just half of the lawn  at Lahaina Library Park. I discovered that the lawn was half owned and operated by Maui County and the half owned and operated by the State of Hawaii.  It reminded me that humans complicate things and cause waste. All the divisions in society that hide hunger and starvation while we destroy fruit.

“Hence; the poem ‘Leaves in the Wind.’ ”


She rakes leaves in the wind

He mows half the lawn

The other half is owned

By someone else

Whose trees

Whose pre-ripened fruits

Have been wasted

By safety pruning.


These trees

Divide the lawn

Bordered by concrete

Walkways and walls

So that the starving children

Cannot be seen

Or can see

The wasted fruit

And the woman

Who rakes leaves in the wind


By Wide Garcia © 2016

picture credit:  via Facebook (with owner’s permission)

[Please note:  If any of you would like to contribute a poem to this page, please let me know by leaving a comment below….  I’d be happy to hear from you.]

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PRODUCT: (book) QUIET INFLUENCE:  The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference

Author:  Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, PhD

Publisher:  Berrett-Koehler Publishers (2013)

Hawaiians have a name for them, kanaka makua, the quiet people who live out their lives without fanfare and who do their best to support the efforts of the people around them.

The kanaka makua strive to live pono (balanced) lives.  They may be ali’i (chiefs) or kahuna (spiritual practitioners) or kumu (teachers and masters of various disciplines).  Often they are not.  They rarely speak in strident tones and they may not be famous outside their families and circle of friends.  People go to the quiet ones for advice and for discreet help and are not disappointed.

When the kanaka makua choose to take a stand, the people around them rise up to lend their support.  They are deeply honored, these kanaka makua, and when they pass on, their absence is keenly felt.

When I read Jennifer B. Kahnweiler’s book, QUIET INFLUENCE:  The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference, I recognized her “Quiet Influencers.”  They are the same people we Hawaiians call “kanaka makua.”


Kahnweiler’s earlier book, THE INTROVERTED LEADER:  Building On Your Quiet Strength, published in 2009, was in the forefront of a wave of information about introverts and how they walk through the world.  World-change was speeding up then, and the standard in-your-face extrovert tactics were no longer as effective as they once were.

Since more than half of the population are NOT naturally into making a lot of noise, the idea percolated up through the mass consciousness that maybe the quiet ones, who are not fueled so much by external stimuli, might have other ways of walking that don’t involve so much pushing and shoving and talking fast and loud.  That idea keeps growing, that quiet and effective is a good thing to be.

You do not need to be Hawaiian to be a kanaka makua, it seems.  Nor does being an inherently quiet sort necessarily mean you are doomed to be relegated to obscurity.  The Dalai Lama, a man known to billions of people around the world, certainly qualifies as one.  So do people like Mahatma Gandhi, Charles Darwin, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, Condoleeza Rice, Steven Spielberg, Warren Buffet and Rosa Parks.

As former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright pointed out, “One indication of influence is the ability to stand boldly against hostile trends and alter them.”  All of these quiet people certainly qualify as influencers.


Kahnweiler’s book is built around answering one question:  “How do introverts make an impact by building on their natural strengths?”

Dr. Kahnweiler is an international speaker and an executive coach who has specialized in developing introverted leaders.  By drawing on her experiences to answer the question, she has made a how-to manual for the care, feeding, and handling of your own introvert nature.

She details the strengths that introverts can tap as leaders.  These include:

  • Taking Quiet Time
  • Preparation
  • Engaged Listening
  • Focused Conversations
  • Writing
  • Thoughtful Use of Social Media

Kahnweiler explains what these capabilities are and how you can work on developing them.  Then, she also goes into what happens if you OVER-USE them, explaining that when you rely on a strength too much, this can cause you to lose your ability to influence the people around you.  Every strength, she points out, can become a weakness if you use it too much – whether you are an introvert or an extrovert.

The most interesting aspect of this is that Kahnweiler says she is not a natural introvert.  For her, the work she has done over the year has been like living for many years in a country where she is a foreigner.  Because of her own extrovert nature, she has been able to see the differences between the two perspective and she is able to compare the effects of having one or the other.  Sometimes an ex-pat can see more about how a strange land works than the natives living in it.


I do highly recommend this book.  As a person with introvert tendencies, I am finding much-needed validation of a style of walking that, for me, is the one with the greatest mana and meaning.  Learning to walk lightly while getting where I want to go and effecting the changes I’d like to see happen is so much more satisfying than stomping around “making Big Body.”

Another poem:



Go softly through your days,

Like a warm breeze, go softly,

Softly, touching lightly

This one, then that,

Moving like a quiet swell

That ends up sooshing on the sand.


Go softly through your days.

Lift your feet and let

The soles of them

Glide over the stones like mist,

Unfettered and untrammeled.


Go softly through your days

And the world will surround you

In a warm and welcoming embrace.

It will heave a gentle sigh

As you flow through it

On your way to another when.

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  via

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I notice that many of the people making comments about the offerings in this thing seem to be separating Left and Right Brain like this:

This is Creative —–> [Right Brain]

< —– This is NOT Creative [Left Brain]

The thing is we (people) are really not half-a-brain.

We are WHOLE brains and both halves are needed whether we want to be Makers or Takers, Movers and Shakers, or Wakers or Fakers.

There seems to be this Great Divide in people’s minds, but, for real, it is an illusion.


Right Brain, the guys-who-know tell us, grounds us in the here-and-now.  It helps us see what is right in front our noses and allows us to take in any kind of knowledge and sink it down into our bones.

For example, Right Brain helps a car mechanic understand that the clunking or whiny noise you hear is happening because some little gizmo in a very complex machine has worn out and is screwing up the works.

Right Brain raises the hackles on the back of your neck when you meet someone and the warning klaxons go off in your head because you “just know” THIS guy is NOT your friend.

Right Brain starts a warm glow in the pit of your stomach when you’re surrounded by the happiness of family and friends.


On the other hand, they tell us, it’s Left Brain that can wander through your memories of the past and your visions of the future.

It’s Left Brain that can gather together all of the different alternatives and options, just-the-facts-ma’m stuff, and piles them all in a heap.

It’s Left Brain that develops the linear processes that help you make some dream come true, that helps you build a something out of all the Nothing that is really only-just potential until you put your hand to it.


Right Brain and Left Brain have to work together, making a synergy that gets everything slotted in place so you can build the worlds that have meaning and mana for you.

Smooth-running doesn’t happen automatically.

The brain-halves communicate differently, for one thing.

Left Brain uses words and numbers and other mind-constructs like symbols and metaphors.

Right Brain uses pictures, smells, tastes, sounds, and body feelings.

It’s kind of like a game of charades between a talkative computational device and a doofus St. Bernard puppy.

It can get frustrating trying to round up all those lemming thoughts and trying to get monkey-mind to settle down long enough to connect the dots.


One way that can help facilitate a meeting of your own brains is what I call “poetry-mind.”

You use it to build bridges between your two half-brains so you can get input from both of them as you work on building your worlds.

It starts with knowledge and respect.

  • You need to know what each of your half-brains is capable of doing and what each one cannot do.
  • You need to respect each of your half-brain’s strengths and understand where each half-brain falls down.

Think about it:  You have your own Human Resources Department in your head and you are both the Operations Manager as well as the CEO in this lash-up.

You will not expect your little old grandma bookkeeper to run out and dig up and turn the soil in a new garden plot.  It’s not the best use of her time or her particular knowledge.

In the same way, as you learn more about what each of your half-brains can and cannot do, you’ll be able to marshal your forces better and use them more effectively.  It’s likely you will end up with a viable and sustainable way of doing what you want to do, it seems to me.


For the past few decades, with the evolution of technology, there have been innumerable studies by neuro-this or –that scientists looking at how the brain works.

These new findings have sparked a diversity of new thinking about how being human works (or doesn’t).

Each new and exciting discovery gets reiterated, trashed, and re-hashed as every psychologist, philosopher, life coach, and know-it-all neighbor weighs in with some kind of opinion about the ramifications of every revelation.

By the time you’ve looked into this fascinating subject by reading a plethora of books, checking out online resources and listening to assorted in-the-know people talk, you will probably gather some exercises or suggestions that can help you make connections between your two brain-halves.

As you play this way, it will get easier and easier to use your whole brain to work on solutions for any problems you encounter.  This is a very good thing.


In a nutshell, here is the THREE-STEP WHOLE-BRAIN PROGRAM

  1. Get to know your half-brains, your Right Brain and your Left Brain.
  2. Introduce your half-brains to each other and encourage courtesy and respect.
  3. Let your half-brains play together and see what they make together.

It may amaze you…


  • Check out the “A Very Short Course on the Brain” video on the website for the latest theory on how the brain learns. The site has a lot of information about Whole Brain Teaching, which has become all the rage among more progressive middle school educators.  The kids and the teachers who work with it seem to be having a lot of fun.  Whether the method is more than a fad remains to be seen.
  • One of my all-time favorite books is THE INTUITIVE BODY: Aikido as a Clairsentient Practice by Wendy Palmer.  In it, Palmer draws on the principles of martial arts and meditation to present a unique method for cultivating awareness, attention and self-acceptance.  In the intervening years since 1994 when this book came out, Palmer has developed her embodiment learning practices into a system called “Consciousness Embodiment and Intuition Training.”  It is quite fascinating.
  • Check out the “Laughter Works…Pathways to Healthful Living” website by Kay Caskey and Laurie Young:  It looks like a lot of fun.

And here’s a poem:


 Wonder is the child of mystery.

It really is what makes history.

Wonder taps the inner spring

That flows through all the everything.

When wonder calls, a haunting cry,

It bids your heart to spread wings and fly.

The dull gray world-clouds fade away

As you romp with wonder in numinous play.

The world turns real and so do you,

When wonder transforms familiar into new.

And when it’s all real again and true,

Then new gates open and invite you through.

Mystery always opens for her wonder child,

Her gifts she gives freely to wonder running wild.

And if you follow wonder’s spiraling way,

What marvels!  What joys!  What fun in the play!

By Netta Kanoho

Picture:  Brains by Cat Branchman via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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