Saturday, July 4, 2009


Sometimes when I meet people and they'll ask "where are you from?" and I'll say "Ka'u." Then I get this look that says "why would you do that?"

I like living in Ka'u. Most other places seem a little dead to me. Which may seem like a very strange thing to say, but I'm not talking about night-life here. (Night-life is fine, I like getting really drunk in dark places with strobe lights as much as the next person.) No I'm talking about another kind of dead, dead as in disconnected. I feel very alive and connected here in Ka'u. You could say this aliveness is spiritual, cultural, and social, but mostly it is an environmental connection, and here I'm defining "environmental" my way, since I'm no kind of environmental activist.

Imagine living in a place where the winds have names. Imagine living in a place where you get most of your food by growing or catching it for yourself or as a gift from friends and neighbors. Imagine a place that makes your heart sing like a tuning fork.

When (first world!) people start going off on needed to save the planet and save this and save that, I think that this is what they are looking for: a life that is connected to the land.

But they've long ago lost the path to here. Choices were made long ago about what the world is like. Most people are prisoners to a job, a mortgage, car payments, tuition, but most of all, prisoners of what is perceived as success, what is expected of them, what is normal. They inherited a world, an operating system that floats above, disconnected from the strength of simple things.

And yet feeds off of these "natural resources" without acknowledging them. And so there is this movement to set things right, and yet it comes mostly from inside this disconnected "dream space", this operating system that is so comfortable, clean, and shiny. There is a "demand" for "green products" and "green packaging." There is this frenzy of recrimination, environmental self-righteousness, green life-style tips. It's all just noise inside a bubble, because it doesn't take into account the realities that make all that frenzy possible. Food, house, paycheck - where does it come from? If you don't start from that, if you don't have quite a bit of humility and integrity about that, you are being deeply dishonest. The wilderness is not just something to be enjoyed and preserved, it is also where we came from.

Here's the heart of it: find out where you live and live there. That is the basis of everything. You cannot have a whole and healthy society, economy, culture, environment without knowing, loving, and contributing to the place where you live. What is the wildness of it? How would you make a living here, if this place is all you had? Go out and do something if possible - build a rockwall, catch a fish, dig in the earth. Strip away all the layers of civilization and find the kernel of life that connects to a place. Then you will begin to come from someplace real.

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