Pono is a Hawaiian word that is usually translated as “righteousness.”  It is a bit more than that.  It is a way of walking through the world that is centered and balanced.   It’s the way a kanaka makua, a mature person, walks.

Mary Kawena Puku’i, one of our most beloved elders and an exemplary example of a kanaka makua, worked with Western scholars to document and preserve the nuances of Hawaiian thought.  Here’s how she described such a person:  “A kanaka makua thinks.  He doesn’t jump into things.…He takes responsibility.…Controls temper…Is not scatterbrained.…Realizes that anger can cause hihia (an escalation of ill-feeling that turns a two-person argument into a family feud).… Sensible.”

A cool head is just half of the equation; it has to be balanced with a warm heart.  For as Puku’i explains, “A kanaka makua is kind.  He is thoughtful…senses the feelings of others.”

The concept was a developmental goal for Hawaiians.  It was used as a measuring stick for behavior and a foundation for what Hawaiians consider to be a proper human being.  It is, I am thinking, a good one to emulate.

And here’s another poem….


Trying to get to pono

is supposed to be easy….


Everybody weighs in,

making bulleted lists of all their wants that they call needs,

their expectations of how it’s all supposed to be —

(the world according to this one or that one) —

all of them frantically, urgently generating more and more puzzle pieces

that do not fit together,

no matter which way you turn them,

no matter how you try to jam them together.

And here I am, stuck in the middle of

this mass of push-and-shove,

everybody jockeying for some position,

looking for even the slightest advantage, the tiniest win….

everybody wailing, thinking some prize is slipping away

out of this one’s grasp or that one’s clutch,

playing tug-of-war with me as the rope.

everybody working up into some sort of rage or other,

spazzing ’bout the collapse of some now-broken world

they had built up in their heads that did not come to pass.

Time for a Cinderella-sister action, I suppose:

chopping off a little here,

slicing down a nubbin there,

trying to get some big ole luau foot to fit into

another teeny crystal slipper.

Trying to get to pono has got me thinking deep:

’bout how all the yammer about “rights”

don’t carry you to Right and Real and True,

’bout how the blather about everybody else’s “wrongs”

just sucks you into a vortex of oughta-shoulda dreck

that oozes up to inundate the Beauty and the Blessings

in a flood of me-me-me,

’bout how the bustle and the noise

increases exponentially as everybody hauls out everything

(including the old kitchen sink)

and tosses them in a pile in the middle of the road,

blocking through-traffic and causing gridlock –

a traffic jam of epic proportions.

Me, I figure I’m just the designated cop

assigned to stand on this traffic island in the middle of this intersection,

waving my arms around,

trying to get the flow moving again

so all these idiot-people can get home.

Ah, well…

since I’m stuck out here anyhow,

I might as well dance….


by Netta Kanoho

picture credit:   PRAYER by John Morgan via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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8 thoughts on “COOL HEAD, KIND HEART

  1. Love how you end up with acceptance! And as for that, “you might as well dance.”

    1. Hey Carlene….thanks for the visit and the comment. Hugs!

  2. Wow! I think that that poem says it all about how the world is today. That everyone is constantly thinking about themselves and how we must fit into the mold created by others. I agree that we need a little more Pono in the world! A truly wonderful poem, thanks for putting it out there for me to contemplate and re-examine!

    1. Thanks for the visit and the comment, immamac. Please come again!

  3. Thanks for reminding us how are personality should be, too many people in this world are gone astray for money and power and forgotten that God has created us to be kind and soft hearted like him.
    It is my hope that we as individuals attain PONO in order satisfy our lord.

    1. Thanks for the visit and your comment, Yaser. Please come again….

  4. Mario Cruz says:

    I’m amazed by the way the people reflect some of the values we are losing but how we can grow, is a good way. I’m glad I’m reviewing this site because it inspires me to become what I have learned throughout life and is a good way of look for the right way to do it and express it the same way it is supposed to be done. Live a great life and in the way of trying to help as many people as you can and help people that are willing to get help. Great site. Love it. Keep up like that keep making people get new inspirations. Have a great day.

    1. Hey Mario:

      Thanks for your visit and your kind words. I do appreciate them. Please do come again….

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