Friday, September 15, 2017


So, dear readers of Kuehu Lepo, the wiliwili is in blossom (which traditionally meant that it was also the time that the sharks were having their babies, so not a good time to go swimming, since mama shark in mother bear mode, not good) and I have started a new blog collective thingy called Anima/Soul: A Gathering Place. Come on over, check it out, and contribute a comment or a blog post or a quote or a photo.  No sked, do it!  :)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

George Helm

Nohealani Kaʻawa in testimony supporting the preservation of Waikapuna quoting George Helm at the PONC (Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resouces) Commission:

A native Hawaiian man can sit on a spot at the beach and feel the ocean and the wind and sky and sense their ancestors there in that place with them, and know that they must care for the place so that their descendants can also experience these things.

A Western man will sit in the exact same place and say: “How can I make this work for me?”

(my paraphrase)
Image result for george helm

Monday, September 4, 2017

Henry Curtis in the House!

I was super-honored that Henry Curtis (who is an all-around legendary force to be reckoned with in the sustainability and energy arena here in Hawaii) attended the session I moderated at the Hawaii Ag Conference, but not only that he wrote a blog post about it.  You should read it because the three panelists that I had the honor of introducing are amazing young thinkers and do-ers. Thank you, Henry! Thank you, Life of the Land for always showing up with the hard questions for the powers that be!

Also, if you are a Ka'u person, please testify in support of the Ka'u CDP (Community Development Plan) on Wednesday, September 6 at 9:15 in person at the County Council Chambers in Hilo or by video-conference at the State Office Building in beautiful downtown Na'alehu.  The CDP will help to keep Ka'u's coastline undeveloped and its lands in agriculture.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Never Enough

'Tis the sickness of Western civilization.  Nothing is ever enough. There always has to be more. The sickness makes us unstoppable because we cannot stop.  We always win because we cannot stop, but we can never win because it's never enough.

We have to keep building in order to keep winning. We have to have more because we have nothing.  Everything was taken before we knew what it was.  How could we know what was being taken?  How could we know that our animal bodies, mute and humble, were our greatest treasures?  How could we know that we would learn the fear of death along with our name? How could we know that every word would be a wall between us and our animal bodies?  How could we know that it was all a trap? How could we know we could get so lost?

But there is always the daylight and the night, and what we lost is right there before us, waiting for our return.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Borderlands II

Without realizing it you might find yourself in the borderlands between the citadel of civilization and the outer territories - those states of chaos and truth that we long ago built a wall against and left behind. It is an invisible wall, of course, a psychological wall, a wall that is as much a cutting as a building, both bulwark and wound simultaneously. It is a wall of words, and of what came before words, the first intention, the first plan of attack or of defense, the first knowledge of fear, of life and death. I want to go there, back there. You can never go back, and yet you can, not in innocence, but in a non-innocence that is neither cynical nor wise.
Our civilization wants to shut out the experience of open-ness, of open space. Cut out and box up. This is a short-term fix to our fears and anxieties. Our words harden and we forget that we live in the boxes of civilization by choice, that we choose our duration in the rooms and hallways, the enclosed mental and physical spaces, of civilization.

Say its Name, over and over again,
Naming what is beautiful and what is dark,
Standing under the mountains:
Pākua, Makanau, Kaʻiholena, Puʻuiki, Puʻuone.

Sunday, July 30, 2017


I am in Phoenix - in the Valley of the Sun - in a hotel room with the air conditioning blasting full out. It is so different here from my usual environment, I hardly know what to think, I hardly know who I am. The “American way” seems overwhelming - the buildings so massive, the machines so pervasive, the wastefulness so ingrained. There doesn’t seem to be any alternative.  Do your job. Don’t ask questions. Try to keep up. Keep the wheels turning. Drive faster.

It is a kind of artificial paradise, a dream world. I believe in it and disown it at the same time. I believe in it practice. I rent a car and drive it through the tangle of freeways, air-conditioner blowing hard because the heat outside feels deadly. I take a long shower in water that has been pumped up from a depleting water-table.

I disown it in theory - in a kind of future tense. It can’t go on like this, right? This city keep growing and growing: more people, more houses, more cars, more water consumption, more air-conditioning. Perhaps it can, into infinity. Perhaps I don’t have a big enough imagination.

I see a headline in a newspaper: Arizona is growing faster than the national average.


I meet Bella, a white woman who is married to a Native American chief. She says to me: “We need a way out of this nightmare that we live in.”

I agree: what we need more than anything is a way out. A viable direction that does not lead to destruction. We have a direction - what we call civilization or The Way Things Are. But civilization is what drives us to destroy the very environment which we need to survive and thrive. Civilization makes us keep on driving and flying and buying and building. Civilization - at least the current version - is based on compulsive competition between humans.

Our plan is non-viable because it is partial, incomplete, and increasingly dysfunctional. It, perhaps inherently, lacks the ability to see the entire picture of human existence within our physical and biological environment.

It is a strangely disembodied approach to life. We have been captured - enslaved even - by the words, images, and sign systems that we ourselves created. We are polluting our own habitat, the actual world, in the pursuit of symbols and phantasms (money, profit, fame.) We are destroying the physical world - and harming our own bodies - in the name of fragile, transparent virtual worlds.


The plan we call civilization worked for a while, when there were not so many of us humans and an abundance of natural resources to discover, but that time is past and our plan is outdated.

The old plan was about individually and collectively figuring out how to discover, extract and process natural resources for human consumption and prosperity. The old plan only sees human needs. It is blind to the necessity of maintaining a non-human environment. It is all about taking - about being better at taking from the environment than everyone else.

The new plan has to come to terms with the concept that we are on a finite planet and that we need to share it with other forms of life. The old alternate theories of communism and socialism and even libertarian anarchism did not go back far enough: they all still assume that natural resources are dead material to be disposed in the sole interest of humankind. None of them question the foundations of civilization. None of them question human self-interest. None of them ask us to share our world with non-humans

Why do we need to share it? For the selfish reason that we probably won’t survive otherwise, but also because a living, flourishing world is better than a dead, destroyed one, and all other forms of life have an inherent value. We cannot value our own life without valuing it in other living beings.

What is the difference between the old plan and the new plan that we need to formulate? It is the difference between extraction and regeneration, the difference between exploiting and nurturing, between taking and giving. A viable plan will actively nurture Life on this planet: Life in all its variety and resplendence of species and natural systems.
The new plan, quite simply, is to nurture life. Starting exactly where you are. The new plan will call each of us to turn all of our human powers of strategizing, organizing, competing, and innovating from exploiting life to nurturing Life.
It starts with letting go. Letting go of the old idea of what it means to be a successful human. Letting go of the idea that you have to be better than anybody else in the terms of the old game. Letting go of the fear of death, weakness, and vulnerability. Letting go of the idea that only human selves matter. It starts with letting go in order to get bigger.

To be human means to be more than human, or at least it should be. Our challenge is to expand beyond the boundaries of our skins and the enclosures of human culture. We cannot be simply human, simply our species. Our humanity does not exist without the non-human. We are both dependent upon and enmeshed with the environment that we live in. We are our environment. That is the bigger self that we could strive for.
In becoming bigger, we can see more broadly and therefore more truly. Bigger, wiser, more engaged. In becoming bigger we can see farther and find a direction, a way out.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Barbarian at the Gates of St. Peter

I have been mulling something that I read in the Meditations of Thomas Traherne, the English poet and priest.  What he says is that faith in God is to the soul, as the soul is to the body.  This schema has helped me to understand religion in general, and monotheistic religions in particular.  That hierarchical vision of mind/body dualism that we all know so well from the history of Christianity, in which the body is a kind of animal controlled by the higher power of the soul has another layer, in Traherne's schema. Faith governs and inspires the soul as the soul inspires the body.  To put it another way, faith in God gives the faithful a kind of super-power.  A spiritual and moral super-power.  No wonder religion is so appealing! This individual super-power is on top of the social power that is concentrated and organized by religious institutions and shared by those who belong to a church, etc.  Traherne's formulation might not be so revelatory to someone with a better religious education than I, who was only lightly exposed to religion as a child, and never truly understood the appeal of the Abrahamic religions.  I can grasp a little better how important faith can be in a person's life.
What I love about Traherne is that he is an uncommonly honest and paradoxical mystic. He speaks of the amorphous with brutal clarity. He sees the violence that is half-concealed in Christianity and owns up to it. For him, universal oneness is not a nice feeling but a never-ending and total responsibility to all the world.