Sunday, December 2, 2018

"Born Was the Mountain" by Chelsea Steinauer-Scudder in Emergence Magazine

This morning I read one of my favorite articles about Hawai'i which is also a podcast. It reminded me of when I worked for Greenpeace, and helped San Carlos Apache fight telescopes from being placed on Mt. Graham in Arizona. Here is an epigraph from a poem I wrote about it "Later, when I ask Corbally if he would want to baptize aliens, the painful conflict of the interventionist duties of the Jesuit versus the detached objectivity of the scientist is visible. Corbally knots his legs into rope and wraps both his arms behind his head. His soft voice almost disappears. I must lean forward to hear him murmur that, yes, he would try to baptize them." The part that isn't in my poem is the next sentence in the article "But Corbally adds dolefully, 'I would first want to examine the theological data of their beliefs.'"

My poem "The Tale of Lucifer, an Old Man, and The University of Arizona and Vatican Telescopes on Mt. Graham" notes:

I recall how my fellow Greenpeacers howled with laughter when Tucson Bishop / Moreno allegedly wondered how to baptize outerspace aliens if the new telescope discovered any. / "If they live on planets without war, and where everyone is fed, they should baptize us," I offered.

My poem ends:

Over 20 years ago, on a drive through San Carlos Apache Nation, an old man offered me his house so that I could live with him. “You won’t learn about us with books or videos,” he said,
“but only by walking with us in these mountains.”  I continued to Mt. Graham then back home

because I had papers to grade, and classes to teach, without much time to contemplate gaps between / knowledge and ignorance, patience and force, spirit and money, life and Lucifer, clean water and coal, / respect and desecration, health and uranium, sustainability and oil, people and policy, blood and gold, / song and silence, and what in our time and place remains wholly real, partially real, barely real, and just / plain bureaucratic illusion.

Here are memorable excerpts from Chelsea Steinauer-Scudder's article about Hawai'i:

"Hawai’ian intelligence, Paul says, is from the na’u, the stomach. Technology has its place, but there are other, more reliable ways of knowing and being; the mind is only a database. Na’u is felt, intuited, learned over time through interaction with the surrounding world. It is about coming to understand the signs around you and aligning your practices and lifestyle accordingly. Development on Mauna Kea, for Paul, is symptomatic of placing too much emphasis on the intellect, forgetting to be in a felt, reciprocal relationship with what is around us. In this sense, astronomy is part of the same mindset that led to the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893. 'You come here, you steal my country, you ban my language, you tell me my church, my religion, is not worth a piece of shit, you put a flag up on a pole and call me yours,' Paul says. 'See, when you’re on that side—when you’re on the telescopes’ side—you don’t know the abuse, because you’re not feeling the abuse. They’ll even say, 'Oh, we agree Mauna Kea is sacred.' Really? Can you please tell me what your interpretation of sacred is? What does sacred mean?”

“'You need to become the place, not expect the place to bow down and become you,' says Lanakila. 'You fit into the natural cycles of the place, you fit into the flow of that land. The land, the way the river moves, the way the wind blows, the trees that grow there, the animals that live there: they are what makes that place alive. Aloha is to love. Aloha is alo he alo, face to face, to know the ha, the breath of life … to recognize individuality, but in individuality, understand connection and responsibility…. It’s not that we don’t know how. We all know how. All of our ancestors, from all walks of life, from every corner of this planet—they knew how.'”

"KEALOHA PISCIOTTA is in the middle of a thought when an eerie, mournful sound fills the room. She apologizes. 'That’s my phone. It’s the lonely whale.' The 52-hertz whale is an unidentified species of whale that sings at an unusual frequency. Kealoha made his song her ringtone. 'I’m not sure what’s happening with him, but I want him to know that we hear him.'" [This sadly reminded me of President Trump's recent decision "to allow seismic blasting harmful to marine creatures."]

"The Kumulipo tells the story of the unfolding of creation, eons of time in which life came into being. 'It’s showing how all things exist and derive from that darkness, from the ocean and from the first coral polyp, or uku, on down to every complex mammal, and then humans. And so nearly everything—every plant and animal—was created before man. It sets up the dynamics of our Creator and the regenerative gods and goddesses that propagate throughout the world along with man…. Mauna Kea represents that po, the entrance way.'"

"Hawai’ians and scientists alike have marveled at the parallels between the Kumulipo and the theories of the Big Bang and evolution. In both cosmologies, everything begins in an infinite darkness with the potential for astounding energy. Much later, life on earth slowly emerges from the depths of the sea."

"Many have argued that the Kumulipo is evidence for the coexistence of astronomy and Hawai’ian culture on Mauna Kea. Kealoha sees it differently." [ . . . . ]

"For Kealoha and the other hui, the telescopes on Mauna Kea have come to represent progress and modernity again overstepping their bounds, trespassing into places they should not go, and asserting rights over something that does not belong to them or to any human being. '[It’s] the machine clanging, attempting to drown out that song of creation … [the] battle going on between the songs of modernity, trying to suppress the very ancient, older songs of our creation and of our reverence for—and the joyousness of honoring—creation.'"

* Excerpts are used with permission.

Steinauer-Scudder's article also reminds me of a challenge from a professor long ago about whether I would save van Gogh's The Starry Night or old woman in a burning museum, and I could only save one.  Many bureaucrats would waste precious time searching for a direction manual while soulful people would save the woman. In other words, in the eyes of the Creator, the way we treat each other is more important than human creation.

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