I found a series of books, the KA WANA Series that was put together in 2006 by a team from the University of Hawaii. It was the culmination of grant-funded work done by a Dept. of Education team to develop a course of study for native Hawaiian children. It was called the PIHANA NA MAMO project or alternatively “The Native Hawaiian Special Education” project. The books were written by cultural expert Malcom Naea Chun.
In one of the books in the series Chun does a riff on the Hawaiian concept of “independence,” which is not exactly the same as the Western version. According to Chun, the Hawaiian form of “independence” is more about self-sufficiency, authenticity, and interdependence.
There is a strong sense of developing useful skills and one’s own style and ways in order to contribute to the overall survival of the group. Chun makes it clear that this form of independence is not the same as the Western idea of separation and a complete, isolated state of autonomous individuality.
He goes on to say that this “sense of independence arises from the results of one’s labor and creativity. The resulting development of one’s own style or ways implies that a person is ready…in his or her own right, to be a teacher or mentor to others….”
This one resonates with me. It has always seemed to me that American lone-dog autonomy is self-defeating. I mean, so WHAT if you’re the Greatest and the Biggest Baddest Queen of the Mountain? All it means is you become the one to beat and you have to keep building up your mountain so it is the tallest one in your part of the world. Otherwise, the enviability dwindles and your awesomeness is diminished. Talk about tiring!
Everybody I know who went for this one got trapped in the Giant Gerbil Wheel of Achievement…the one where you keep going, going, going until you’re a nubbin, albeit one that inspires a heaping helping of envy from all the other ones who are on the same Wheel. Somehow, this doesn’t make sense to me. I mean, doesn’t that just mean it’s you against everybody else? Or maybe it just means you’re AWAY from everybody else. How boring is that?
It seems to me a better plan to make the run, bust butt, hustle the hassle, and all that to develop skills that are useful and then use them to work on developing the head-room and heart-room that will make a framework to help yourself and your tribe live a good life.
My definition of “good life” means inclusion rather than exclusion. I wonder how much of that is cultural…..Hmmm.
‘Course…maybe that’s just ’cause I really would rather be holding somebody’s hand as I make my way home through the dark….
WALKING EACH OTHER HOME
We are, all of us,
Just walking each other home…
In the middle of all the Big Alone,
Telling each other stories
That make us giggle and smile,
Lending each other a heart
To hold for some little while.
We are, all of us,
Just walking each other home,
Wandering through the Big Woods
Past scary shadows
And fearsome teeth and claws,
We make our way
To the warm, sallying forth with no pause,
Singing our tiny songs,
Sharing silly dance steps,
Moving right along.
We are such little guys.
The world is awful big.
It’s always good to know
When someone else gives a fig.
And through it all –
The wind, the rain, the muck –
It’s really good to know
That you and me,
We’re just here
Walking each other home.
by Netta Kanoho
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