Monday, August 11, 2008

Musings: Hawaii's Spiritual Core

The days are shrinking on both ends now, a minute here, a minute there, offering inexorable proof that summer is on the gentle wane. Not so the moon, which shone brightly through my front windows for much of the night, headed toward full on Friday.

It had set, and the sun not yet risen, when Koko and I took our walk in the fresh, cool pre-dawn air. The doves were singing their throaty chorus and a shama thrush let loose with an intricate melody. Koko, head down, immersed herself fully in the splendid world of sniff, and clouds poured like silver waterfalls over the summit of Waialeale, against the backdrop of a pale pink sky.

These, to me, are all sacred things, far more holy than anything I’ve experienced in a church of man’s creation, where I’m boxed in by walls and altars and stained glass and pews. Out here, in the mundane surroundings of my neighborhood, I’ve got a direct line to the source, and I don’t need anyone or any place to serve as intermediary.

I’ve often thought, and more so lately, that a lot of the clashes we’re experiencing here in Hawaii stem from our giant disconnect from the sacred. I don’t profess to be an expert on Hawaiian culture, but it seems to me that at the root of it all was a recognition of the sacred. Chants were an integral part of every action; everything, animate or not, had an acknowledged essence.

The other day I was talking to Palikapu Dedman, the longtime Hawaiian activist who has succeeded in advancing many of his causes, which is probably why the right-wing Hawaii Rag, I mean Reporter repeatedly tries to denigrate him by preceding any first reference to his name with the words “convicted felon.” As if anyone cares that nearly 20 years he was busted for growing pakalolo.

Anyway, Pali — and others whom Nani Rogers so aptly described as the “creme de la creme of na Kanaka veteran warriors” — came to Kauai last week to show support for efforts to preserve the Naue burials. I hadn’t seen him in many, many years, and we had a chance to catch up while they were camping at Waipa.

Now Pali, who is probably about 60, grew up in Ka`u, on the Big Island, where his grandmother, who was raised in the old ways, had a tremendous influence on his upbringing. As a result, his political activism, including the Pele Defense Fund, has always been steeped in the spiritual. We were talking about some of the comments left on the Star-Bulletin articles about the Naue burials. Friday’s piece generated a whopping 177 comments, while Saturday’s follow-up got 137. If that’s any indication, and I think it is, this is obviously a topic of interest for people.

And it’s a topic that to me so clearly expresses the growing divide between those who value the inherent Hawaiianess of Hawaii, and those who live here for reasons of economics, climate or what have you.

While some of the comments expressed dismay at the desecration of burials, others expressed the view — echoed by some in the comments section on this blog — that people should stop blocking “progress,” that bones shouldn’t stand in the way of building luxury vacation homes, that the Hawaiians should just get with it because western culture, with its emphasis on money, is the dominant force in the Islands today.

Palikapu, as you might expect, had a different take on the issue.

First, he expressed dismay that other ethnic groups that immigrated to Hawaii aren't speaking up about the ongoing desecration of Hawaiian burials when all of them come from cultures that revere their dead. It's sad, he said, that they've lost so much in just a few short generations.

“These things can’t be directed by the money, they have to be directed by the soul,” he said. “If individuals want to sell their souls, fine, but when you have the state set up to require everyone to lose theirs, well, that’s where you run into problems.

“What does Hawaii mean? The islands are like eight temples. That’s how it’s supposed to be viewed. It’s very spiritual. It all has to do with spirituality. And if we ever lose that, there really is no meaning to the word Hawaiian any more.”

Do we really want to lose the essence of Hawaii, its spiritual core? Because it seems to me that that’s where we’re headed unless we restore Hawaiians to their rightful place at the head of the table.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's like an airplane that has run out of fuel. Only 2 questions left: how far is the fall and how long will it take?

The concept of these islands being eight spiritual temples is melting faster than an ice cube on an LA sidewalk.

There's not enough fuel in this airplane to keep it in the air.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic article, Joan.

True, the concept of the islands as eight spiritual temples is indeed melting,

but more akin to melting polar ice caps on a planet hellbound for development.

Are you gonna honor and preserve what is sacred, whether it be a burial ground or an arctic ecosystem,

even if it bucks the overwhelming trend?

Or are you gonna conform to the dominant paradigm of destroy-for-profit,

like the shipping companies competing for new routes in the arctic, once the pesky ice caps are gone? (Yay! More shit from China to Cosco!! oh, and too bad for the penguins and polar bears.)

Not to mention the consumption-addict countries which refuse to acknowledge the Kyoto Protocol.

That same consumption-addict mentality is seen in those who desecrate the burial grounds of native people. (oh well, too bad, but, like the penguins and polar bears, they just don't fit in profit-imperative worldview, so their decimation was inevitable.)

This is the mentality that has caused the "airplane" (meaning, the planet) to run out of fuel. It is now dropping out of the sky.

koohan

Katy Rose said...

Yeah, time for everyone to decide, "Which side are you on?"

Anonymous said...

"which side are you on"

very two dimensional. Just goes to show that left wingers and right wingers all pretty much think alike... very narrowly.

Anonymous said...

"Which side are you on" vs bridging the "growing divide". I wonder which should we choose?

Joan said...

"Which side are you on" vs bridging the "growing divide". I wonder which should we choose?

I personally prefer bridging the growing divide. We've got enough polarization already.

Anonymous said...

"Which side are you on" vs bridging the "growing divide". I wonder which should we choose?

See what I mean? You all sound just like that faux news idiot Sean Hannity. "Do you support the war or do you hate America?" Maybe you guys are moved by this kind of mindless rhetoric but at least try not to insult the intelligence of those of us with brains enough to see through your false choices.

Katy Rose said...

You're right, false dichotomies are insulting. My point is that it's time to choose what we will work towards and stand for....more of the same, or something better? We are reaching a crossroads after all, given our climate crisis.

Anonymous said...

Aaaah! More vague to the point of meaningless "choices"! Must...fight...back...debilitating...ennui...

Anonymous said...

> The concept of these islands being eight spiritual temples is melting faster than an ice cube on an LA sidewalk.

There's not enough fuel in this airplane to keep it in the air. <


If you listen to the roar of the airplane, you'll never hear what's in the wind. The signs that enormous masses of people are sick of western culture's Business as Usual are everywhere, from protests over sacred lands to outrage over lead in Chinese toys to the plummeting approval ratings of political parties. The long ride of the smug elites isn't over, but it is slowing down. Young people increasingly aren't buying the swill they've been sold about what is valuable in western culture.

In all the long haul of history, when head and heart go into combat, heart eventually gets the edge. It's why we cherish good over bad, healing over hurt. It's why the last century saw white barbarism on the rez, while this century sees NAGPRA. It's why stadiums are filled with young people cheering candidates of change, while legislatures are haunted by old people brokering power deals.

And it's why Palikapu isn't so much saying what he wants, western-style, as stating what's already in the wind.

Look around.

Anonymous said...

Isn't that what they used to say in the 60s? Aren't you just being romantic? Wishful thinking?

Anonymous said...

> Isn't that what they used to say in the 60s? Aren't you just being romantic? Wishful thinking? <

Yeahhh, same idealistic crap they always spew.

...just before a cultural revolution leaves the old guard wondering WTF was the name of the truck that ran over them.

Anonymous said...

yeah. like in the 60s. Hahahahaha hahahhahahahaha hahahaha hahahaha ha haha ha ha.

"cultural revolution." That's a good one.

Anonymous said...

With such a dedicated bunch of idealistic blog commenters I'm sure the age of Aquarius is just around the rainbow.

Anonymous said...

Gas was 25 cents a gallon in the 60s. No, it's not just like the 60s. The plane is going down.

Anonymous said...

At this time, please make sure your seatbacks and traytables are in their upright and locked position.

Anonymous said...

> yeah. like in the 60s. Hahahahaha hahahhahahahaha hahahaha hahahaha ha haha ha ha. <

I love it when people keep laughing...

...all the way to their failing bank, bloodsucking corporation, corrupt legislature, or other crumbling social institution.

:D

Anonymous said...

Since you think the plane is crashing, can I have your POG?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, and since you think gas prices will never go down again, can I have your car? And since you'll be spending your days with Juan Wilson making rope and ship sails, can I have your job?

:D

Anonymous said...

"unless we restore Hawaiians to their rightful place at the head of the table." - Conrow in Hawaii

"unless we restore Aryans to their rightful place at the head of the table." - Hitler in Germany

Anonymous said...

> "unless we restore Hawaiians to their rightful place at the head of the table." - Conrow in Hawaii

"unless we restore Aryans to their rightful place at the head of the table." - Hitler in Germany <



"As an Internet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one."
- Godwin's Law
(Michael Godwin, 1990)

Anonymous said...

The probability reaches one when the comparison is dead on.

Anonymous said...

So you're saying comparing Joan Conrow to Adolph Hitler is dead on??!

yeah, okay, whatever.

Anonymous said...

they're both vegetarians.

Anonymous said...

Pali was busted for transporting for the purpose of selling and carrying a shotgun while doing so. His most recent bust was a petty theft misdemeanor rap in 2004--giving him a total of four convictions 2 felonies and 2 misdemeanors.

He is a great leader of the Hawaiian people who occasionally sells poison to their children. (BTW don't leave him unattended around your jewelry)

After his Pele Defense Fund comrades tried to get Hawaii County to seize the kuleana plots of his Hawaiian neighbors at Punaluu Kau, we on the Big Island are glad to see he is over there with you.

He probably doesn't want to be around on Sept 20 when the Green Party loses its only elected official in HI on his account.

Anonymous said...

"Restoring" any race "to their rightful place at the head of the table" is disturbingly Hitleresque.

Joan said...

they're both vegetarians.

Shows how much you know. I'm an omnivore.

As for Palikapu, I see we have a Hawaii Rag correspondent in our midst. FYI, pakalolo ain't poison and I'd trust him with kids and jewelry any day.

Joan said...

"Restoring" any race "to their rightful place at the head of the table" is disturbingly Hitleresque.

Not when you've stolen their land. In that case, it's the proper thing to do. But that's the kind of comparison I'd expect from a defender of the colonial regime.

Anonymous said...

"I see we have a Hawaii Rag correspondent in our midst."

Not a "journalist" like you, huh Joan.

Joan said...

Hey, you can say what you like about me, even really stupid stuff like comparisons to Hitler, but like it or not, you can't change the fact that I'm a journalist -- even if you hate what I write and how I write it.

Anonymous said...

You're no less of a reporter than the reporters at Hawaii Reporter. No more of one either.

Joan said...

Yawn.... whatevahs. You're the one making comparisons, not me.

Anonymous said...

"the right-wing Hawaii Rag, I mean Reporter"

"the left-wing Kauai Rag, I mean Eclectic"

Ed Coll said...

I prefer a round table with no head and no designated seating where people sit as equals.

Anonymous said...

> "the right-wing Hawaii Rag, I mean Reporter" <

Are you referring to the mouthpiece of the moneyed interests who keep plundering the islands to line their pockets?

Oh, that rag.


> "the left-wing Kauai Rag, I mean Eclectic" <

Are you referring to the rag written by the reporter who got fired by the other rag for revealing not only that the emperors are naked, but how many hickeys are on their okoles?

Oh, that rag!

Anonymous said...

Is that why she got fired? I thought it was the appearance of bias...

Anonymous said...

If that's just "appearance of bias" what would it take to be called actual bias, bombing the boat?!

Anonymous said...

> Is that why she got fired? I thought it was the appearance of bias... <

I thought it was the appearance of Truth.

> If that's just "appearance of bias" what would it take to be called actual bias, bombing the boat?! <

No, actual bias is what makes a reporter a Reporter reporter.

Anonymous said...

the idea that joan is an unbiased reporter made milk shoot out my nose. Ouch!

Anonymous said...

> the idea that joan is an unbiased reporter made milk shoot out my nose. Ouch! <

Aw, I'm sorry. Well, now that you've had your milk, you can have your cookies.

Then scoot right off to bed, you want to get plenty of rest for your sixth grade class tomorrow. (And if you don't waste any of that precious brain power on critical thinking, this year you'll graduate for sure!)

:)

Anonymous said...

sixth grade? You overestimate the average intelligence of us joan readers.