Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Mars and Kuleana: raw, thrusting responsibility to self and the living earth

I am a curious woman. Long a lover of books, and grateful to be able to read the paper versions again, I dig into Pualani Kanahele's Ka Honua Ola, and continue to glean the clues from her grand works. Today's post gathers and pins together the life work of Hawaiian scholar, hula kumu and elder Pua Kanahele; Pua's daughter, Kekuhi Kanahele-Frias, writer, author and earth activist Barry Lopez and astrologer Elsa Panizzon. Makua O'o they express their kuleana (responsibility) openly and passionately with a Mars flavor to it. Starting with Elsa's recent post about Mars, the gathering begins...

"Mars is a yang energy. It’s raw and male and thrusting. If you deny this energy expression, it becomes twisted and perverted and bad things happen. Disowning your Mars energy is one of the worst things you can do. Nothing good comes of it, that’s for sure. Have you ever heard someone say, ‘It’s eating at him?” That’s Mars energy that’s turned in when it should be expressed outwardly.
Pua Kanahele writes, "...[This book, Ka Honua Ola] is a resource for Hawaiian cultural information regarding rituals, place names, events, processes, and formulas that can--and should--be a foundation for diverse occupational lifestyles. This occurs as the ancestral cadences move the reader to heightened engagement with traditional Hawaiian perspectives and practices for ka honua ola--the living earth. The mele in Ka Honua Ola reveal that word and sound have substance; the reverberation of traditional mele into today's settings creates a venue for activation. A young genealogist will begin to see the wider ecological context of her lineage. A hula dancer will find the proper protocols and attitude for approaching and entering certain places. An environmental scientist will discover that his methodologies and findings are just beginning to catch up with the knowledge Hawaiians have had for centuries. The intent of Ka Honua Ola, therefore, is to expose Hawaiian mele as a pursuit of knowledge."

Scenes from Hanau Ka Moku
Leslie Lang interviews Pualani Kanahele and daughter, Kekuhi Kanahele-Frias

"There’s a scene in Hanau Ka Moku("Birthing the island" The stage presentation and hula)—which the troupe recently performed at the Smithsonian and the international Celebration of Sacred Dance and Music in Greece—in which Kekuhi’s husband, Kaipo, wears a black, tailed tuxedo jacket along with his malo (loincloth) and lei. The unexpected costume embodies a principle that Kekuhi says her family feels very strongly about: the idea that traditions must continue to evolve. She illustrates her point by describing a dream an uncle of hers once had, in which the family was conducting a workshop on a new lava flow at the beach. A man in a malo appeared and led them behind a stone wall, where he had a “full-on computer set-up.”

“Whether you’re changing with the world or not can determine whether your practice lives or dies,” Kekuhi says. “We choose to live, and we choose to evolve, based on the principles and philosophies of our grandparents and their grandparents.” But even when the kumu are being at their most innovative, she says, “the style and the discipline and the ritual that goes into the preparation is the same. We don’t compromise those things, ever. The chants from long ago, Kekuhi says, are the “treasure chest of information” that the current generation of kumu refer back to. “But my grandmother forced us to make sure that we also make some contribution to that treasure chest,” she adds, “so it doesn’t remain only a pile of old chants, but is a continuing practice.”

"[Barry] Lopez is, to my mind, the most important living writer about wilderness. And the defining quality of a wilderness, for Lopez, is that it make us "stumble". It removes a step from our stairs. In so doing, it draws our attention to the "narrow impetuosity" of our human schedules... Perhaps the best way to think of Lopez is as a postmodern devout. His prose - priestly, intense, grace-noted - carries the hushed urgency of the sermon. Irony and ambiguity are not in his repertoire. His is an unshadowed style, "transparent as a polished windowpane". For some readers, this urgency is too much. Jonathan Raban, in his fine book Passage to Juneau (1999), describes how he tried to read Arctic Dreams , but had to set it aside, feeling scolded. "I found myself," Raban remarked, "an agnostic in his church; embarrassed, half-admiring, unable to genuflect in the right places ... aching for more profane company."- Robert Macfarland writes about Barry Lopez

Most recently Lopez has written a very personal, and early experience with Mars' expression perverted and twisted. The essay which was published in Harper's is not an uncommon early experience with Mars, but is nonetheless harsh and imprinting. Lopez says about the story "Sliver of Sky", " This piece is the hardest he's ever written. The advantage that I had," he says, "is that I've been a writer all my life, and I had somebody at Harper's — Chris Cox — who was an exceptional editor, who could do what I could not do, which is I could not find and hold the emotional distance that I needed from this material in order to write about it in the way that I thought I had to, which is, in the end it's not about me, it's about us."

"Where is your Mars, and how do you express it?" asked my astrologer. Excellent question. I consider the answers, gather experiences that answer deeply and fashion my own here and that is why I count on astrology as one way to navigate a life as makua o'o. And you?

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