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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28 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….

  5. This is simply beautiful! Reading the poem gives me peace and serenity. Thank you for sharing this!

    1. Thanks for the visit and your comment, Angela. I am glad you enjoyed the poem.

  6. Sammynathaniels says:

    Hi Netta, 

    I’m a poet and when I see a good poem I know it from a glance. To be frank, the emotions in this piece is captivating especially at the point where you wrote.. “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… ” . It reminds me of the world we live in and the fiery competition we face every day 

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your comments, Sammynathaniels.  I am so glad you enjoyed it.

      Please do come again….

  7. This is beautiful! Cool Head to me is “Keep your cool” which can easily make your heart kinder. If only there were more people take this into consideration, the world would be so much better. The poem gave me a sense of calming and serenity. Thank you for sharing! I look forward to more poems!

    1. Thank you for your visit and for sharing your thoughts, Angela.  I’m always glad when a poem works!  

      Please do come again.

  8. It is my hope that we as individuals attain PONO in order to satisfy our Lord. I am very much glad I’m reviewing this site because it inspires me to become what I have learned throughout my life and is a good way to become what I have learned throughout life. Thanks for putting this poem out there for me to contemplate and re-examine.

    1. Destiny, thank you for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I am pleased the post has been a help to you.

      Please do come again….

  9. That is a really cool picture of a mantis. I really enjoyed the poem and an overview of the Hawaiian culture however I was thrown off a little by the foreign Hawaiian words at the beginning and made me a little hesistant to read it because I wasn’t sure what I was reading. I think a summary of what the Hawaiian words mean in English would be ideal. 

    What is your favorite lesson you have learned from Hawaiian culture?

    1. Thanks for your visit and for your comments, Jon.  I am glad you liked the poem and the overview even though I didn’t throw in a glossary of the words.  I do try to at least give a feeling of what the words mean.  (It’s sometimes hard because there are no real English equivalents for the Hawaiian phrases and it’s more like feelings.)

      I love mantises.  Such brave little guys with a lot of attitude!

      My best lesson from the Hawaiian culture, I think, is the one that tells us that all of us are in this thing together so we need to try to get along and help each other when we can. It’s a good way to live, I find.

      Please do come again….

  10. Okay, now that’s the new word of the day: Pono!!!

    Love this poem and love the way it kind of covers about 99.9% of us on the planet today…thinking about ourselves first. I know it’s mostly human nature but it leaves a very bleak and uncaring landscape to cope with. Thank you so much for sharing this unique poem (and thank you for teaching me a banging new phrase!).

    1. Chris, thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I am really pleased you like “pono.”  Nothing’s better than that one.

      Please do come again!

  11. Beautiful poem here. Even though I am no Hawaiian, I believe we all should become or thrive to become kanaka makua. If we really are all mature,we would have cool heards and kind hearts. What would it cost us to calmly sort put anything that goes wrong. Or to be sensitive towards other people’s feelings? Our lives would be much more fulfilling if we could become kanaka makua and make the world a better place for everyone.

    1. Vapz, I do thank you for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I appreciate it…and, of course, I agree with you.

      Please do come again.

  12. Yormith96 says:

    It’s always good to be helpful to others no matter what we going through. I think this poem has said it all we should also have at heart the people in our surroundings. It’s a good way of reminding us that we are people and not only to love attractive things. The love of money, power amongst others is more important in some peoples’ lives compared to their fellow human. A lovely poem and I think everyone should have a read on it. Lovely job 

    1. Thank you for the visit, Yormith96, and for your comments.  I am pleased that the poem moved you.

      Please do come again.

  13. mhasanalvi says:

    Hi Netta,

    Thank you very much for sharing such an wonderful poem.  Really this is an amazing poem.  I like this poem very much.

    Through this poem, the aspect of self-interest in the present world has been exposed.  We should stop to run behind the money and power. 

    It inspires us a lot that we should help the people and also be kind and soft hearted. I will share this great inspirational poem with my friends and relatives so that they can benefited from this.

    1. Thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts, mhasanalvi.  I do appreciate it and I am glad you liked the poem.

      Please do come again.

  14. This is a great poem Netta,

    I guess the world needs many kanaka makua right now. Righteousness, does anybody know the meaning of that word these days? And love the way the poem balances a cool head with a kind heart. Everyone is so selfish, see it through my eyes, it has to be my way, I need my space. The list goes on and on! 

    1. Juliet, thank you for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I do appreciate it.  

      The best antidote to rampant selfishness, I suppose, is to not add to the mess your own self.  The side effect of being pono is that the people around you like it so much that they respond in kind.  It is way cool.

      Please do come again.

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