At birth I was given the name of “Robert”. Within my birth family I am known as “Bobby”. My father always (and he is the only one to have ever done so) called me “Butch”. My nieces and nephews know me as “Uncle Bobby” or “Unka Bobby”. When I entered monastic life I was given the name of “James”. When I was ordained to the Priesthood I became known as “Father James”. One of the children in my parish could not say “Father”, so he always called me “Fawah”. In Hawaii I am known as Kahu Kimo (Kahu being the Hawaiian equivalent of Reverend, and Kimo being the equivalent of James). Those to whom I give in-depth spiritual guidance call me “Abba”. All of these names arise out of my relationships with others. It is in relationships that we are known by others, and through those relationships that we come to know ourselves as our interior take on ourselves is confronted by the exterior manner in which we deal with others.
One of those relationships is that which we have with the earth around us, a relationship which is of primary importance in Hawaiian culture. Previous to the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy it was impossible to buy and sell land in the islands since the land was seen as being simply entrusted into our care, and not something that we could own privately. The idea of selling the land was akin to that of selling one’s grandparents… a thought too horrifying to even consider! Hawaiians consider the earth to be ʻOhana (family): We belong to it, and not the other way around. How different a concept this is from that of mainland culture which is basically rooted in the buying and selling of everything!
I recently read an article, complete with photos, about a new product: Biodegradable Burial Pods. They look like large-ish eggs. The deceased is sort of folded into a fetal position and placed in the pod, the pod is sealed and placed in a deep hole in the ground, some soil is placed on top and then a small tree is planted on top; as the deceased decomposes and the egg degrades the roots of the growing tree find nourishment. I’m not sure that the Orthodox Church would allow my body to go this route, but what I like about the whole concept is that it exemplifies our relationship with the earth from which we take our lifelong nourishment. By going the Pod route, in the end we come to nourish the earth as well so that it, in turn, might nourish others: Seems like a great definition of both ʻOhana and “relationship” to me!