America’s Greenest Cities
America’s Happiest and Healthiest Cities
Open thread. Discuss.
Now what?!? Some headlines & news stories that ended up on the cutting room floor:
Syria wants to give up its chemical weapons, but Halliburton has a strict “No Returns” policy.
Putin will ease up on Russia’s anti-gay policy during the Olympics, if all male athletes agree to forego wearing shirts.
The Napa California Hot Air Balloon Contest sported a hot air balloon that looked like Rush Limbaugh. No one could tell the difference.
Now that Gay marriages are legal, Gay divorces are on the upswing.
With recreational marijuana now legal in some states, pot sales hit new highs.
Koch-BlockBusters deal falls through.
Netpics picks hit flix.
Ted Cruz picks up endorsement from Sarah Palin, goes down in polls.
Congress shut down for two weeks last summer. No one noticed the difference.
Republicans want to shut down the government if they don’t get their way. Oh, wait. That’s not news.
OPINE THREAD TIME.
I recently ran across and re-read an old book that I had purchased a few decades back whilst visiting the Hawaiian Islands. It’s titled, “An Account of the Sandwich Islands; The Hawaiian Journal of John B. Whitman, 1813-1815.” In the Foreward, John Dominis Holt writes,
These “notes” of an unknown early visitor to Hawaii who we know as John B. Whitman are unique and certainly they contain observations both incisive and authentic which create an unmistakable atmosphere of old Hawaii perhaps still to be found in some of the untouched places of these Islands. . . . If you can ignore Whitman’s irksome and fanatical views common to American Calvinists of the time, the “notes” or “Journal” . . . presents a unique view of Hawaii . . . a few years before the death of Kamehameha. (highlight mine)
What actually caught my eye as I reread the book were the place names cited by Whitman. He spoke of islands named “Owhyhee,” and “Mowee,” also “Woahu, Morokie and Attooi,” and he noted that on Woahu stood “the busy little village of Hanoruru.” Whitman also noted that “Woahu is situated between Morokie and Attooi about thirty miles from the former and seventy miles from the latter.” He was, of course, using the phonetic spelling of the various islands (and place names) in the Hawaiian group. The American missionaries hadn’t yet arrived, and since the Polynesians had no alphabet and no written language, phonic spelling was the tool the westerners used on their maps and in their writings.
In later years, after the (American-Calvinist) missionaries who were assigned to the Hawaiian Islands had managed to construct the means of writing the local Polynesian lingua, the alphabet they collectively devised contained only thirteen letters: the five vowels, plus consonants h, k, l, m, n, p, and w, plus the “u‘ina”, where the embedded (‘ ) indicates a glottal stop. After the alphabet was devised and assigned, Whitman’s Island and place names became (resp.) Hawai’i, Maui, Molokai, Kauai, and Honolulu; i.o.w., both the letters “T” and “K” became “K” only, and the letters “R” and “L” became “L” only. It was a matter of phonics, of trying to accommodate/insert the implicit (and variant) local pronunciation(s) into the English alphabet. So, in the Hawaiian corner of Polynesia, the word ‘Tahiti’ became ‘Kahiki’, and ‘Attooi’ (variously spelled, by others, as Atooi, or Atoui) became ‘Kauai’ (what happened to the ‘A’ on the front end, I have no clue).
Anyway, enough of that. Suffice to say that today’s island of Kauai was once known as Atooi, and was apparently considered to be a very sacred spot in the Hawaiian Islands as well as definitive of the northern apex of the so-called ‘Polynesian triangle’. Today, ‘Atooi’ is the name of a new and fresh Polynesian Kingdom. This Polynesian Kingdom of Atooi is a United Nations recognized indigenous sovereign nation that is headquartered on the Island we call Kauai, and led by a descendant of ancient royalty, the Ali’i Nui (king) Aleka Aipoalani who currently reigns over the Kingdom from on the west side of Kauai, which is one of the most sacred and royal areas of the Hawaiian islands. The PKOA [Polynesian Kingdom of Atooi] is composed of peoples from diverse cultures whose relationships share the mission of ho’opono aina (to make right with the land).
I have to wonder: is this newly-emergent Polynesian Kingdom of Atooi possibly the forefront of that above-referenced unmistakable atmosphere of old Hawaii perhaps still to be found in some of the untouched places of these Islands ?? If so, I wanna go there! Again! Maybe stay this time!
Ah, well, ok then, and speaking of ‘untouched places’, following are a handful of photos, shot circa 1978 on my first visit to what has now become the Polynesian Kingdom of Atooi. There were still, way back then, some ‘untouched places’ on those islands . . . well, barely touched at least. But then, beauty remains forever embedded . . . in the beautiful — right? (see below!)
So there you have it, the northern tip of the Polynesian Kingdom of Atooi. As of today, it consists of:
Not a bad combo! And (just guessing), NO REPUBLICANS OR OTHER WINGNUTS ANYWHERE TO BE SEEN!!
Works for me!
And last but not least: Old map(s), but interesting:
There are days during these troubled and irrational times when the overwhelming urge is to ignore the moment, to instead ponder other potential options that human existence might — maybe? please? — pursue or (at least) offer: something beyond those politically-inspired nonsensicals embraced within all of current discourse as if by mucoidal slag. Today is one of those days; the world’s global and human-inspired destructive political and dogmatic silliness and downright stupidity demand an alternative view. No politics, no dogmas, no destructions, no desolations are permitted. Not today. Instead, I wondered: why not a reflection of certain ‘lessons’ I have (accidentally to be sure) been fortunate enough to encounter over the last nearly four decades, ‘lessons’ which finally want to gel, to become ideas, maybe even concepts of that which life offers, what it “means”?
OK. So off we go. Back to the source (for me, at least), to Polynesia, to the Hawaiian islands of Oahu, Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, and especially Kauai — via old photos, via an old poem, and via a recollection or two gathered in a Buddhist Garden . . . overall, an excursion, really, onto The Sea of life’s potential, its “meaning” — the undercurrent of the entire planet’s divine spirit, its Namasté . . . at least as seen through my own admittedly dimmed and foggy vision.
It begins with the obvious:
In distant view, the azure sea is calm,
Her mottled, cooling blue speaks peaceably
She doth caress;
Yet on her shores, in frenzied battery,
Great waves disintegrate with energies
And broken swells, like shattered crystals, fly,
Then fall and quickly wash the sands, with masked
Byodo-In, Oahu’s Buddhist Shrine in the Valley of the Temples —
A few decades ago, I visited a special place in the Hawaiian Islands, on Windward Oahu. As the crow flies, it wasn’t far from the geographically-confined sprawl of late 20th century Honolulu, but in every other way it definitely stood a world apart. It’s called the Valley of the Temples, and its beautiful centerpiece is a Buddhist shrine called Byodo-In, a replica of a 900-year-old Buddhist temple in Uji, Japan.
Arrival is ordinary; there’s the parking lot, of course, generally a small crowd coming and going, and a paved pathway into the grounds. The scenery is impressive and eye-catching; with the fluted cliffs of the Nuuanu Pali as a backdrop, the frequent rain clouds, rainbows, and salubrious tradewinds combine to effect a very nearly idyllic rendition of an ideal tropical scene. But once on the grounds (which are spacious and open, but still private and lush) a feeling of ‘something’ seems to gradually overcome the senses. There are clear meandering streams, ponds of lily pads where huge gold and multi-colored Koi swim . . .
Here and there a graceful footbridge arches over a stream; there are rock gardens, and occasionally in a small corner an unobtrusive bench upon which one can sit for a spell, often in the midst of intensely fragrant flowering shrubs and/or next to a gurgling stream. After a short while, one slowly becomes aware that things are different. Somehow. There is no ‘un-natural’ noise. One senses that he is, indeed, “Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife” as even the occasional stray voice seems muffled, barely audible. Everything one sees or senses is perfectly placed, perfectly manicured, but nothing looks either disturbed or out of place, or even pruned or planned; it all seems and ‘feels’ completely natural in every way. After awhile, even the temple itself – the centerpiece of the gardens – seems as if it has grown from the ground naturally, not as if it’s been constructed by humans.
I suppose I wandered there for at least a couple of hours before leaving, soon to re-enter Honolulu-bound traffic on the Likelike Highway. I puzzled the entire trip back to ‘civilization’ but was unable to quite figure out – to put into words – just exactly what it was that I had just experienced at Byodo-In, and it wasn’t until several weeks later that it finally struck me: I had spent two hours of my life in Oahu’s Valley of the Temples, and become thereby as if an intricate part of a giant artwork. In the metaphoric sense, the experience probably most resembled a visit to an art museum, perhaps even to a symphony concert in a renowned hall somewhere, but with one huge difference: at Byodo-In, I, the visitor, was intended, prearranged, to become part and parcel OF the artwork – a brushstroke in the Mona Lisa? a note in a Mozart symphony? – but surely not, any longer, just an observer. I wasn’t listening to a Beethoven sonata, I was, rather, now parcel to the score of a Beethoven sonata, and the melody implicit had subtly emerged to define my entire surround!
It’s begun to seem, to me at least, that art has many levels and it really doesn’t matter just how – or precisely where – one fits himself in; the important thing is to do so, to open the mind and allow the transition, the transcendence. The only superlative to gazing at an artwork may well be to exist as part of it, to be surrounded by and intrinsic within whatever it is that sets the work apart from the ordinary, that which makes viewing it an experience and not just a minor event. And therein lies the virtue of art — no matter whether the form be painting, sculpture, music, words, even an ocean sunrise. Whether natural or of human creation, all of art requires only the substance of intrinsic quality, that sum of esoteric value as expressed in one form, or another.
Perhaps that’s the point where one’s sense of existence blends with and becomes an intricate part of that far greater sum which some choose to call the Universe, the Creation – or any of a number of all-embracing ideas which emerge to define the transcendent breadth of one’s own life. And that “simple” idea is what I like to think I’ve finally come to comprehend; IT is (intensely, on occasion) implicit in the compilation of words and graphic renderings of isolated partitions of each and every place on this planet that I’ve visited over the years, and in that context IT is, in reality, nothing I might have ever brought to THEM, but what THEY have CONSISTENTLY! given to ME.
My hope is singular – that each and all might learn to seize one of THOSE moments, every now and then — a moment which allows the escape from current reality to become even the briefest of brush strokes in the art of whichever natural paradise might be at hand. Exist there for a moment or for a lifetime – become a word in a poem or become a poem; become a note in a piano concerto or become the keyboard, the score; close your mind to the intrusions of man, and shield your eyes from man’s desecrations of the land, the sea and the sky. Relax, become part of that which you truly are, and disavow that which you are not or should never become.
And, later, when you return to the reality of the modern world, recall from whence you’ve come; engage yourself in the fight to save that small part which remains undisturbed, to repair all which is repairable of that which has been desecrated or destroyed. And then – rejoin the beauty from which you and all of life and form have once derived.
I’ve never since viewed art in the same way as I once did, nor have I ever since been able to immerse myself into an undisturbed natural expanse and not become, once again, an intricate part of each the reality AND its attendant metaphor(s). The distinctions between brush strokes, or pigments, or shapes, forms, even words in a poem or notes in a melody fade to the point where I am no longer a separate entity, but am instead part of that Song.
William Wordsworth summed it all up in his poem Ode on Intimations of Immortality:
No more shall grief of mine the season wrong;
I hear the Echoes through the mountains throng,
The Winds come to me from the fields of sleep . . .
On every side,
In a thousand valleys far and wide,
Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm,
And the Babe leaps up on his Mother’s arm:–
I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!
Note what is missing in the scene just above: each and every evidence of human’s Politics, of his Greed, Power, of his perceived “Dominion” (in any sense, Biblical included), also Conquest, Authority, Money (whatever THAT is supposed to be), Dogmatic Usurpation, Pollution of Essence . . . none of that. But yet, there stands a human. How can that be?
It’s because HE stands there on that sunrise-emblazoned shore as if a note in that symphony, a word in that poem, a single brush stroke in that painting . . . and deep within, he knows he is but a PART of that universe in which he stands, HIS universe, OUR universe. He knows full well he does not own it, that he has no dominion; all he knows is that HE is parcel to it . . . and that HE is every bit as integral to its music . . . as is every aspect of his entire surround.
To him, and to all like him, I borrow from the Byodo-In, from the lingua franca implicit within The Valley of the Temples, one word:
This is today’s open thread. Carry forth . . . and Namasté!