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IN GIVING WE TRUST

IN GIVING WE TRUST

I was listening to a soon-to-be ex-tenant of mine ranting on about how the past two years of her life spent on a little island in the Pacific that the P.C. (Politically Correct) crowd touted as the dream place to live had been most unsatisfactory.

Her body held rigidly erect as she stood flat-footed on the ground, she had thrown down her bandana and was giving up.  “Going home,” she said.  “I’m going home.”

And then there was a truly heartfelt cry.  “Where’s the ah-low-haw?” she blared.

I thought back on our relationship of the past six months and could not even begin to explain to her that her habit of following Mark Twain’s snarky definition of the “Diplomacy Principle” – give one and take ten – might be at the heart of her difficulties in moving gracefully through the life here in the islands.

It got me to thinking on the issue of generosity and the dance of give-and-take that smooths the way for some folks here and frustrates the expectations and hopes of so many others.

THE THING ABOUT ALOHA

There’s a lot of hoopla and hoo-hah about the concept of “aloha.”  Poetic metaphors and sappy slogans abound.

There have even been government-sponsored public relations campaigns aimed at mitigating what some smarty-pants see as a diminishing of an important “asset”….as if the whole thing is a commodity that can be bought and sold.

aloha
“Aloha” by Danielle Chang via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
These smarty-pants have tried to define “aloha” as “reciprocity.”  But that’s not really it.

The basic “reciprocity” thing is all about “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.”  That is not aloha.  That’s a trade agreement.   It could also be a pathway to collusion and conspiracy.  As a way of living it tends to get as clunky as a hula danced by a robot.

 IT GOES BACK TO CARING AND TO THE LAND

Old-style Hawaiians had a very different take on the generosity thing, it seems to me.

It begins with a concept:  ‘aina.  The word literally means, “that which feeds.”  It is also the word Hawaiians use for “land.”

The land here was bounteous and mostly kind.  It fed the people well, if the people took care of it.  If they took care of each other and shared what they had and what they produced with one another, life was good.  It’s an underlying mindset that is just one of the realities of island life, I think.

I’ve thought on it a bit.  Some folks say the Jewish kosher rules about food had a lot to do with dealing with food-spoilage.  Many of the dietary rules are practical and pragmatic and encourage the safe handling of food.  They were all developed before the advent of refrigeration.

The same holds true in the tropics.  Food spoils very quickly without refrigeration.

If you killed a pig, you threw a feast and shared the meat with everybody around because there really was no way to preserve it.  Three hundred pounds of rotting meat makes a mighty stink.

A tree that produced an abundance of fruit meant that you went looking for people to share in the bounty or faced a mountain of rotting fruit.  (It got problematic if all your neighbors had the same kinds of generous trees.)

A plentiful catch of fish could be dried, of course, for the times when the fish were scarce or the sea was rough, but the ocean is always there, and mostly it is kind to those skilled in the arts of caring for and gathering in the abundance.  There were always relatives and friends and other people who had no easy access to it and who would appreciate a taste of the sea.

Taro fields produced large quantities of food if the land was well-tended – much more than one extended farmer-family could consume.

taro-and-valley
“Taro and Valley” by Jen R via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
You gave away more than you kept.  Everybody did.  Hoarding makes no sense if all the treasures are perishable and have a short shelf-life.

And if your hands are free and your heart is open, well…the people around you tend to give things to you as well.  Why not?  They have more than enough their own selves.

It works better that way.

You  malama (care for) the land that feeds you and you malama the people around you because if the land and the people continue to prosper, so do you.  This is the hidden meaning, the kaona, in the word “aloha.”

 THE SHARING HABIT

This habit of sharing is ingrained in the island culture.  It’s pretty much unconscious, it seems.  You give and what goes around comes around.  It makes a circle of goodwill that is inclusive and that keeps expanding as more folks come and join in the dance.

 Immigrants came from many other places.  Many of them were worker-people brought in to toil in the fields of plantations, large and small.  They were poor folks and they knew about hard.  They also understood about having to depend on the goodwill of neighbors and strangers for their own survival.

The land was giving and the new people, too, joined in the circle of sharing that was already established, and so it went.  They survived and many of them thrived.

The sharing – the thing we call “aloha” — is not about giving with the expectation of getting back something from the person you gifted.  You give because you know that in the giving, somewhere down the line, when you need it, somebody else will be there to give you what you are needing.

It is about trusting that together we all can make an abundance that we can keep growing.

It is a hard thing to explain to others who see the whole dance as a zero-sum game, where the resources are limited so you have to grab as much as you can as fast as you can or you will end up with nothing.  It isn’t the same as “if you get more, I get less.”

MALAMA THE ‘AINA

I got to thinking about all this again when I ran across this video, “Molokai Words of Wisdom,” that was put together by Molokai filmmaker Matt Yamashita and his Quazifilms Media using snippets from other videos he’s made.

It holds the thoughts of a number of elders and passionate younger people who live on the island of Molokai, where I grew up.  Among other things it is an attempt to explain about what it means to “malama,” to care for the land and to care for each other.  It is most beautiful.

Matt was raised on Molokai and after receiving his BFA from Chapman University, he came home to become the island’s first professional filmmaker.  With a small budget and limited resources, he’s been producing hit-the-heart documentaries and videos since 2001.

His list of clients reads like a who’s who of folks who are working on preserving the ancient  wisdoms.  Among them have been the Polynesian Voyaging Society, OiwiTV, University of Hawaii, Queen Liliu’okalani Children’s Center, Kaho`olawe Island Reserve Commission, Pacific Islander’s in Communication, First Nations Development Institute, Departure Films, Notional, Gaia, Sacred Lands Film Project, Mill Valley Film Group, Protect Kaho’olawe ‘Ohana, Honua Consulting, Pacific American Foundation, Hui Ho’oniho, Tau Dance Theater, Edith Kanaka’ole Foundation, Hui Ho’opakele ‘Aina, Na Pu’uwai Native Hawaiian Health Systems, Molokai Community Health Center, Ala Wai Watershed Association.

The list also includes assorted government and media groups like Maui County AHEC, Hawaii State Department of Health, Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources, Hawaii State Department of Agriculture, and KITV, KHON, KGMB, and KHNL news stations.

Check out his other videos on his You-Tube channel.  They are amazing….

Here’s a poem:


HISTORY

It’s said we are all

By our history defined.

All the people before us,

The panoply they made,

The great and winding parade,

Continues onward, onward in us.

 

Some say we are doomed

To repeat the mistakes of

All the ones who’ve gone before.

Others say we will transcend

The Was and do another thing

That never before was seen.

 

I’m not sure that either side

Has the right of it.

I say we will do what we do as we do it,

Just like those ones of old,

And in the tomorrows before us

The consequences will inexorably unfold.

 

Let us pray those consequences

Are good ones….

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture:  “Sharing” by Josh Harper via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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WALK LIKE A HAWAIIAN

WALK LIKE A HAWAIIAN

In 1986, the American band, The Bangles, released “Walk Like an Egyptian.”  All over the world, people started doing the walk and walking like an Egyptian.  It was fun!

Last year an Australian couple, Zoe Russell and Brad Moore, went to Egypt.  Russell, who is a travel blogger, posted a cute, lip-synced version of the song that was intended for the enjoyment of their family and friends.  Check it out:

The video went viral in Egypt. The Egyptian tourism industry got behind it and the cute little video got more than 450,000 views on Facebook.  In April, 2017, ABC News Australia did a story on it.

THE WAY YOU WALK

This bit of fun got me to thinking about all of the different ways people have of walking in the world.

Part of the way that each of us walks, I think, is a matter of culture.  The culture into which you are born and raised often has a lot to do with the qualities you bring to the way you walk in the world and interact with other people.  Many of your highest aspirations come from it.

WALKING HAWAIIAN

I was born and raised in Hawaii and that surely affects my default mode of walking.  It’s a good way, I think.

The thing you have to know, first of all, is that Hawaiians have a deep, ingrained respect for the power of the word, and many of our words are descriptions of the character traits of the people in our lives.

kanaka-makua
“Kanaka Makua” — petroglyph rubbing by Netta Kanoho (rock carved by Fred Kanoho)

Let me introduce you to the concept of kanaka makua.

According to the author of Nana I Ke Kumu:  Look to the Source, the highest aspiration of a Hawaiian is to be a kanaka makua, a person who is emotionally and mentally mature.

Aunty Mary Kawena Puku’i, the Hawaiian elder who was the resource for much of the knowledge that is recorded in scholarly books on Hawaiian thought and language, said, “A kanaka makua thinks.  He doesn’t jump into things.  He takes responsibility…  controls temper…is not scatter-brained …realizes that anger can cause hihia (an ever-widening, increasingly damaging network of ill-feeling)…sensible…kind…thoughtful….”

But, most of all, the author says, a kanaka makua is hospitable with a hospitality that “connotes a warm and generous giving and sharing, whether of food or companionship or concern and comfort, always in a person-to-person way.  (He has outgrown the infantile grasping to get all one can and keep all one has….).”

THE GOOD DOCTOR FINDS THE WORDS

In any language, there are words and phrases, stories and proverbs that describe human character traits and qualities (admirable and not).

One person who collected such words was the Reverend Dr. Charles McEwen Hyde, a Congregational minister  who began teaching Native Hawaiian pastors from 1877.  Hyde developed a list of Hawaiian words and proverbs while conducting group discussions with his Hawaiian students at his North Pacific Missionary Institute.

charles-mcewen-hyde
Charles McEwen Hyde by Not Given {{Public Domain}} via Wikimedia Commons.

He wrote a number of articles in Thomas G. Thrum’s Hawaiian Almanac and Annual as well as the Hawaiian Gazette Monthly in the late 1800’s.  In them he included all the words he could discover.

Looking over his lists gives you a pretty accurate idea about what was considered admirable in a person during that time.  The nuances attached to the words can be interesting.

BALANCE

Probably a kanaka makua would be considered to be ku, proper and fit.  It is likely that he would be one who is kapukapu, entitled to reverence and respect, being dignified and separate from what is common.

The kanaka makua has a na’au pono (balanced mind) and is just, right-minded and upright.

wave-rider
“Wave Rider” by Jason Jacobs via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
He is also nakulu’ai, upright and praiseworthy.  (A chief or common person respected for virtuous conduct was called kolokolohai, a term of respect for someone who is thoughtful, humble and kind.)

Perhaps this person would be considered ka’oka’o — whole and undivided because he removes himself from wrongdoing.

GENTLENESS, HARMONY, HUMILITY

Gentleness, harmony and humility were considered the most important character traits.  A person who is ‘elemino is “gentle, without noise or confusion, and easy in manners.” (The word implies “straightness” and “uprightness” as well.)

One who is gentle-mannered and soft-spoken is nahenahe, like a quiet breeze.  As one proverb says, “He ‘olina leo ka ke aloha,” (a joyousness is in the voice of love).  Love, it says, speaks in a gentle and joyous voice, not in harshness or gruffness.

Unity and harmony is often emphasized.  Someone who is kohukohu, “harmonious in opinion” is also considered to be noble, honorable and dignified.  One proverb admonishes, “I ho’okahi kahi ke aloha.”  (Be united in the bond of affection.)

shaka-aloha
“Shaka Aloha” by Ethan Chiang via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
One who lives quietly and is humble is ha’aha’a.  Such a person might say, “He paepae wawae ko’u ‘ili no kona kapua’i” (my skin is like the soles of his feet) as an expression of humbleness that acknowledges the superiority of some other person.

The word hilu also describes someone who is still, quiet, reserved and dignified.  Unlike ha’aha’a, it also implies elegance, power and magnificence.

CALMNESS, GRACE

Calmness and grace were prized.  One proverb says of one who remains calm in the face of difficulty, “He po’i na ka uli, kai ko’o, ‘a’ohe hina puko’a,” (though the sea be deep and rough, the coral rock remains standing).

true-beauty
“True Beauty” by CRASH:candy via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

GENEROSITY, KINDNESS, BENEVOLENCE

Generosity, kindness, and benevolence was emphasized.  One who is manawale’a gives willingly, cheerfully and liberally, even giving generously to those who are undeserving.

Kahiau means to give away lavishly, from the heart, expecting nothing in return.

Kihikau means to give lavishly until everything is gone.  (This is listed as a positive human quality.)

One proverb quips, “he ‘opu halau,” which is said of a person who is kind, gracious and hospitable.  The literal meaning of this phrase is “a house-like stomach,” but it means that the person has a heart as big as a house.

Hospitality, especially to strangers, is an outward sign of generosity.  One proverb says, “He ola i ka leo kahea” (there is life in a hospitable call).

welcome-luau
“Welcome Luau” (BYU-Hawaii) by Nathan Lehano via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
People who are generous to a fault are considered to be “disposed in feeling and action to do good”, lokomaika’i, and are likely to be benevolent and obliging.  Grace and good will are theirs.

As one proverb says, “‘Ino ka palu ‘a’ohe e mikokoi ‘ia e ka i’a.” It helps to know that palu is bait made of dried, mashed octopus liver when you’re told that this proverb says, “When the bait is not good, fish will not gather to eat it.”  In other words, goodness and graciousness always attracts attention.

One who is kindly and forgiving is considered to have na’au ali’i (the sensibilities of a chief).  One who is warm-hearted is called pumehana.

SKILLFUL MEANS

Skillful action, excellence in work, industriousness, and neatness or tidiness are also part of the kanaka makua ideal.

Being diligent in business and active is to be nakue.   (The word carries a connotation of being cheerful, hopeful, perhaps even thrilled.)

Men who are skillful, ingenious or dexterous with natural skill, wisdom or ingenuity are called maiau.  Women who have these qualities are called loia.

Someone who is miki, energetic, active, ready to act and diligent, is greatly appreciated.  One who is miki’ala is alert, punctual and ready for business.  Someone who is mimiki works with a will, is quick and spry and very industrious.

teaching-little-brother-to-play
“Teaching Little Brother To Play” by Sarah Han via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
A person who is more than prompt and present before it is time to start work is paku’ei.

One who is prepared, energetic and active is pulawalawa.

INTELLIGENCE, THOUGHTFULNESS

Intelligence is prized.  An intelligent person is called akamai, smart, or na’auao, which literally means “daylight mind” and implies enlightenment.

Being skillful and thoughtful in reflection, eloquent and moving in speech is being mikolelehua.

One who is thoughtful might also be called lana ka mana’o, hopeful and without worry, or kuano’o, comprehending and meditative.

thoughtful
“Thoughtful” by edward musiak via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
To understand, to see clearly and plainly, and to be insightful is to be maopopo.

COURAGE

Courage is prized in a warrior culture.  A person who is koapaka is valiant, brave and a success as a combatant.

Having a firm stance, being kuha’o (or standing like iron) is important, as is being maka’u ‘ole, fearless. The word kuo’o expands the idea of fearlessness to include being vigilant, ready, and prompt in action.  (Solemnity and dignity seem to be attached to kuo’o.)

Someone who is lalama, on the other hand, is fearless, daring and adventurous like a mountain climber.

courage
“Courage” by Christian Michel via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
To be wiwo’ole is also to be bold and fearless.  One way to achieve clarity and be devoid of fear in the middle of danger, it is said, is mohala, to open or calm the mind.

A person who is kamau has great endurance and perseverance especially in uncertain time.  This description implies constancy and loyalty as well.

Kupa’a ka mana’o means “faithful in thought, settled in mind.”  Kupa’a is steadfastness, faithfulness, loyalty and determination.  It literally means “to stand fast.”

IT’S THE LAW….

One of the most famous words in the Hawaiian language is “aloha.” It has echoed through all the world, been turned into a slogan, a mission statement, an assortment of brands, and so on and so forth.  It’s become, alas, something of a cliché.

aloha
“Aloha” by Peter Liu via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
I find it interesting that the state of Hawaii has a law on the books that requires public officials to “contemplate and reside with the life force and give consideration” to an essentially native spiritual concept.

They call it the “Law of the Hawaiian Spirit.”

This is what the law says:

  •   5-7.5 “Aloha Spirit”. (a) “Aloha Spirit” is the coordination of mind and heart within each person. It brings each person to the self. Each person must think and emote good feelings to others. In the contemplation and presence of the life force, “Aloha“, the following unuhi laulā loa may be used:
    Akahai“, meaning kindness to be expressed with tenderness;
    Lōkahi“, meaning unity, to be expressed with harmony;
    ʻOluʻolu” meaning agreeable, to be expressed with pleasantness;
    Haʻahaʻa“, meaning humility, to be expressed with modesty;
    Ahonui“, meaning patience, to be expressed with perseverance.
    These are traits of character that express the charm, warmth and sincerity of Hawaii’s people. It was the working philosophy of native Hawaiians and was presented as a gift to the people of Hawaiʻi. ”Aloha” is more than a word of greeting or farewell or a salutation. ”Aloha” means mutual regard and affection and extends warmth in caring with no obligation in return. “Aloha” is the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person for collective existence. ”Aloha” means to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.
    (b) In exercising their power on behalf of the people and in fulfillment of their responsibilities, obligations and service to the people, the legislature, governor, lieutenant governor, executive officers of each department, the chief justice, associate justices, and judges of the appellate, circuit, and district courts may contemplate and reside with the life force and give consideration to the “Aloha Spirit”. [L 1986, c 202, § 1]

Hawaii may be the only State in the Union that mandates that its public officials show love for the people they serve.  Hmmm….

Here’s a poem:


HAWAIIANS TEACH BY LIVING

 

“Kuli, kuli…too much noise,”

Tutu would always say

To the loud and curious grandchild

Who ran around all day,

Looking for the answers,

Wanting to know NOW,

Always looking for shortcuts,

Grumbling about ‘as how.

 

Too much questions,

Too much talking,

Too much namunamu.

Close your mouth, move your hands.

One day you will understand.

 

One day…

 

Lessons you learn in silence,

Watching hands move

With graceful skill.

 

Lessons you find in silence,

Hearing old voices,

Talking long and slow.

 

Lessons you see in silence,

By doing it over

Again and again.

 

Lessons you feel in silence,

Wondering, pondering,

While the old ones play.

 

Hawaiians teach by living.

It’s the only way they know.

If you want to learn, be still.

When you stop making noise,

They will show.

by Netta Kanoho

Header Photo Credit:  “Aloha – Company On a Long Drive” by Matt via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below and tell me your thoughts.

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