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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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KAHIKINUI PRAYER

KAHIKINUI PRAYER

Kahikinui is a land district that is approximately 22,860 acres between Kipahulu and Kaupo on the southeastern side of the island.  It is bound to the north by Haleakala National Park,  to the west by Ulupalakua Ranch and to the east by Haleakala Ranch.  The Pacific Ocean laps along its southern boundary.

This YouTube video, “Kahikinui,” was published by Jeremy Johnson using his drone and gives a taste of the sheer expansiveness of the place.  (The music is “E Nihi Ka Hele” by the legendary Hawaiian musician Gabby Pahinui)

THE MANY-STORIED LAND

Kahikinui can be a harsh place, a dry and rocky place full of thorns, feral goats and axis deer, and it is, to my mind, one of the most beautiful of Maui’s treasures.  The land is mostly undeveloped because of the shortage of water there.  Some see it as a good place to put up huge windmills for energy.

Kahikinui is the back of beyond…a hinterland that was inhabited since the early fifteenth century by na kua’aina, the country people.  Later planters transformed it into what was called the “greatest continuous zone of dryland planting in the Hawaiian islands.”

It sits mostly empty of people now, but at one time there was a fairly large population.  Ruins of old houses, trails, small farms, and a complex system of temples and shrines are scattered throughout the area.

kuaaina-kahikinui
KUAAINA KAHIKINUI by Patrick Vinton Kirch (via University of Hawaii Press)

Kahikinui was the subject of a 17-year-long study by anthropologist Patrick Vinton Kirch and his students.  He wrote a book about it, KUAAINA KAHIKO, Life and Land in Ancient Kahikinui, Maui.  It is an amazing book.

One reviewer calls Kirch “an academic archaeologist who tried to be pono at a time when to be an archaeologist in some circles was to be a social pariah.”  Interwoven throughout the book are stories about his relationships with a dedicated group of passionate homesteaders, Ka ‘Ohana o Kahikinui, who were allowed by the Hawaiian Home Lands Commission to set up for a bare-bones homesteading effort.

The Hawaiian Home Lands Commission is a State agency that oversees the distribution of (usually third-rate) farming land to Native Hawaiians, as mandated by the Federal government.  That’s a whole, other, very long story fraught with controversy and politics.

The members of the Kahikinui ‘Ohana were willing to do what they had to do to bypass the long, long wait for the government resources to become available to develop the infrastructure that is officially deemed necessary for the people to move back onto the land.

pueo
Pueo by pmm3 via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

LAND CONNECTION

My husband Fred and I were interested in becoming homesteaders there.  Two years after Fred died, the land became available.  I was offered a chance to acquire a lease for land there, a posthumous award to my husband.

I had to refuse the offer.  By myself, I did not feel able to do it.  In gratitude, however, I made a prayer/poem for the homesteaders there.

When I gave it to him, this poem made Mo Moler, the charismatic leader of the group, cry.  I was very proud of that.  Mo is one tough guy, a Vietnam veteran and a wild man.  It is not often that he lets himself cry.

pueo-on-the-fence
Pueo On The Fence by Mark Kimura via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Here’s the poem:

 


PULE KAHIKINUI

 E Akua, hear me.
This is your child who calls you.
 
Our thanks to you for this land:
For the great bowl of sky and the beauty around us,
For the cool of the mountain, the abundance of sea,
Our thanks.
 
We come together now to talk about this land,
This land that needs us as we need this land,
So the land may live,
So we may live.
 
Help us guard our mouths.
Let our words bring light, not darkness.
Help us clear our na’au and hold to our purpose,
So we can resolve our problems
In peace,
With love.
 
Let us put our minds together and pool our mana’o
And see what we will make together for our keiki.
Help us hold this land as witness to the beauty that was,
To the beauty that is,
To the beauty that can be.
 
Let us make from this land more beauty,
And with that beauty we will feed our souls.
Help us remember that we are the bridge between
Those who come before us
And those who come after us.

Let us be strong and true to that memory.
Help us remember who we are,
That we are yours as you are ours
And we are all together.
 
E Akua, hear me.
This is your child who speaks.
 
To you we offer the glory of this work we do.
It is yours, all yours.
Let the work be pono.
Let the land be pono.
Let us be pono.
 
E Akua, be with us.
We who are yours,
We ask.

by Netta Kanoho

E Akua is a calling out to the Creative and to the ancestors.  Na’au  literally means “guts” – a person’s center, where all of the emotions and subconscious thoughts and feelings are held – and where Hawaiians feel the human “mind” is really situated. Mana’o is “knowledge.”  Keiki is “children.”  Pono means being balanced and being righteous.]


Picture credit:  Kahikinui by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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REVIEW: QUIET INFLUENCE

REVIEW: QUIET INFLUENCE


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.”

THE RISE OF THE INTROVERTS

Kahneweiler’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.

BE A QUIET INFLUENCER

Kahneweiler’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 yourown 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

Kahneweiler 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 Kahneweiler 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.

FINAL THOUGHTS

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:


REMINDER TO ME…

 

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 amazon.com

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