Spectacular clouds and rainbows fill the sky. The ocean is the clearest, bluest miracle of water that you will ever see. The land is drastic, awe-inspiring, and ever-changing. Birds sound like they are singing it all into existence. This is Hawaii. And if it were any other state in the union, we’d create a war out of it, saying that all of these elements are competing against each other to grab our attention. But in Hawaii, we understand that all elements are working with one another and this is the picture they create, vibrant and alive, whether we are attentive or not.
Last week, my pal Willy Iaukea, keeper of the ways and stories of the Ka’u lineage, gave a talk wherein he mentioned the original meaning of the word “Malama.” Malama is a Hawaiian word that has come to mean “to care for” or “to be a steward of” the land. But in the original usage, Willy told us, malama meant be the land. Be nature.
Be nature. You are that already, so identify as it and then there is no question of whether or not to care for it. There is no question of how anymore than there is a question of how you nourish yourself. Willy said that he wasn’t telling us anything new, but putting together the words that would remind us of what we already knew and had forgotten or been ignoring. When we think about the fact that we actually are nature–that it isn’t just some poetic flight of fancy–then we must realize how disidentified we are from our true self, which is also our home. This was all very clear, very obvious after he said it. And yet… inevitably….
A hand shot up in the back of the room. A woman had read a novel in which the character of a powerful Hawaiian healer had turned into a shark to understand the shark’s medicine. Can we turn into animals, Willy? Is that what you mean by being nature?
Willy looked glazed, like a man pretending to ponder the question when what he must have been pondering was how to break it to this person gently: Hawaiians are not land sharks.
What is so difficult about being nature that we don’t want to hear it even though we already are nature? Why is it preferable to do magic that temporarily transforms us into another animal or a tree or a bug—some aspect of the natural world—so that we may extract from that mind knowledge we can utilize when we come back to our human form? Why is that fantasy better than even the depth of reality we’re blocking out?
We’re blocking out our own reality. Remember that, all ye who live by the creed, “We create our own reality.” What are you living again?
Separating ourselves from nature means we are already living in a fantasy of our creation through the power of denial. Rather than seeing this and being real with our unreality, we project further fantasies through the power of desire. Our normal, everyday collective agreement to live the lie of separation is like a gateway illusion into our own more intimate, more personal, illusions. We explore them and say we’re evolving. We say it’s a tough world out there and live in our anemic heavens.
And when life gets too difficult, we shake a fist at the heavens, demanding to know who has forsaken us.