Belonging

In counseling situations it is not unusual for me to hear the other person express they are concerned by the fact that they have doubts.  While we all have doubts on a daily basis (“Will I make it to the meeting?  How can I pay that bill?  Does she love me?”) for some the existence of a doubt is a seriously unsettling affair, as if the fact that they doubt might cause the world to wobble off of its axis!  Quite often, as we discuss their doubts what becomes clear is that the real problem is not so much the subject of the doubt, but rather that by doubting the individual feels they no longer “belong.”

In my love for Hawaiians and their culture I have come to understand that for a Hawaiian to “not belong” causes a serious fracture in the psyche since an important value in Hawaiian culture is that of being part of a family, the ‘Ohana, which is their primary experience of “belonging.”  And when we speak of “family” for Hawaiians we don’t just mean the father, the mother and siblings; Hawaiian relational connections are a net cast widely and includes cousins of various degrees, Aunts, Uncles, islands, mountains, even those who have become hanai’d, or adopted, by the family.  To not “belong” in Hawaiian culture is to be uniquely alone.

Tourists and other non-Hawaiians may think that Hawaiian culture is simply about treasured customs from the past such as hula, leis and luaus!  Hawaiian culture, while including these elements, is primarily based upon living in a holistic relationship with the cosmos, of being in a respectful relationship with other people, with the earth, but especially with the Divine and all that is sacred; living correctly within all of these relationships is where Hawaiians experience “belonging.”  For non-Hawaiians the current controversy over the building of yet another telescope on Mauna Kea may seem to be an ignorant Luddite reaction against science and progress; for Hawaiians the issue has to do with non-Hawaiian disregard and disrespect for a member of their family: the sacred Mauna Kea.

From the Hawaiian viewpoint, Western or Mainland culture overly values individuals doing as they please, which attitude is fostered by a culture steeped in buying and selling.  Hawaiian culture, on the other hand, values the individual’s respectfully taking care of what the Divine has entrusted to them: family and the earth.  And in the Hawaiian viewpoint on that earth there are places that are considered sacred… physical portals enabling contact between ourselves and the Divine.  Mauna Kea is one such sacred spot, and for Hawaiians the issue of erecting yet another telescope up there… #13 to be precise… is to turn the sacred space of Mauna Kea into being yet one more place to conduct business, in this case the “business” of science.  For Hawaiians this is a struggle between Mauna Kea as a Temple, or viewing Mauna Kea as just one more potential Walmart!

Leonard Boff has written: “The universe of energies is constituted by a web of relationships.  All things, even subatomic particles, exist for, with, and through one another.  Nothing exists outside relationship.  To exist is to be in relation.”  Doubts aside, human beings have a basic need to know where, in the grand scheme of things, they belong; for Hawaiians that is most deeply found within relationships, which includes relationships with the land and with the Divine within the land.  Legalities aside, the ultimate question in this struggle is: To whom does sacred Mauna Kea culturally “belong”: To the commerce of science, or within the Hawaiian ‘Ohana?”

Of course all that I have written here is being expressed by a haole, or non-Hawaiian, and therefore there is a chance that I may not have the right take on what is going on within the current Hawaiian struggle… but I don’t think so!

Kahu Kimo

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