Banner photo: Nate at the top of Devil’s Tower – an arduous climb – and typical of a Nate adventure.
Nathan O’Kones (February 16, 1982 – June 7, 2018) – our friend, computer expert, a young man who valued integrity, loved nature and the ocean – and being “outside” the box.
A Break in the Web
We grieve because we are a part
of one another
Connected by the golden thread
that binds us all
The absence of another is felt deeply
within our souls
We are displaced
when someone has departed
We don’t feel right,
we don’t feel centered
We lose our place and feel invalid
Whenever life’s flow is interrupted
The threads of our existence unravel
It is the others in our life
who weave us back together
Making us whole and strong once again
by Shelby Kane
The life of a soul on earth lasts beyond his departure.
always feel that life touching
that voice speaking to
you, that spirit looking out of
talking to you in the
familiar things he touched,
loved as familiar friends.
He lives on in your life and in the lives of all others that knew him.
– by Angelo Patri
Nate’s mom Barbara was here on Maui the last 12 days or so to finalize Nate’s responsibilities and material goods. I feel blessed to get to know her – and Nate’s friends we had never met.
Nate does live on.
Our son Johnny, who counted Nate as one of his best friends, planted an ulu tree, a tree that nourishes many (our “Nate” tree) in our yard; we think Nate would like that.
May we hold each other in the light. As Ram Dass (& artist Sherri Reeve) say, “We are all just walking each other home.”
Our loss reminds us of the importance of each day and each person in our lives.
“To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable” – Helen Keller (1880-1968) –
Helen Keller was the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree. Wikipedia
Flowers from Joy R. & Dawn – Mahalo 🙂
We know that the income gap is growing in the U.S. More and more people are having to work two or three jobs just to break even each month. If you miss one payment on our credit card, your interest can jump to 23% or more (as young people we know have found out). Before the previous U.S. government regulations stopped it, Wells Fargo, for instance, was allowed to charge 300% interest! Now the the current U.S. administration is proposing to let banks return to giving high interest small loans. We talk about the 1% in the U.S. who have most of the money – and we want them to change, to be compassionate, to be fair.
But what if we (yes, I’m including you – and me – who have time to read this instead of working an extra job) were part of the problem? What if we are in the 9.9% who keep the other 90% down? The article, “The Birth of the New American Aristocracy” by Matthew Stewart in the June 2018 issue of The Atlantic, makes me reflect on the unearned benefits in my life. Awareness is the first step toward change. Read this article and see what you think – and consider what you can do.
Instead of just blaming the 1%, we could be doing more – much more – to promote justice and equality.
Not only was his great-grandfather Oscar Mayer, of hot-dog fame, and thus Chuck Collins had four generations of stable wealth in his family, but Collins also came to realize as a white male American born into a family in the wealthiest 1 percent, he had great privileges while his neighbors in Detroit dealt with grave racial and economic and societal challenges and inequities.
Among other ideas, Collins sees, “The wealthy need to care about other people’s kids, too. If your kid is getting a debt-free college education because of your family’s wealth, then you should fight like hell for every other kid to have the same opportunity. If you don’t, you’re perpetuating the cycle of inequality” (10).
In the following interview with Megan Wildhood, published in The Sun, (February 2018, Issue 506, p. 6-14), Collins shares why we must recognize that we are all completely intertwined in ways we haven’t even begun to understand – and take personal action to support equality and justice – in nature , in community, with other sentient beings.
Please read the following link for Chuck Collins insights and good ideas:
Also, the most recent issue of Yes magazine focuses on affordable housing. It’s a fabulous collection of examples of what is actually being done. Included is Collins’ commentary: “Make Them Pay: The Global Wealth-Hiding, Ultra-Rich Elites”
“Collins is a director of the Program on Inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies, where he co-edits Inequality.org. He is author of several books, including 99 to 1 and Born on Third Base: A One Percenter Makes the Case for Tackling Inequality, Bringing Wealth Home, and Committing to the Common Good. His latest is Is Inequality in America Irreversible? (Polity Press).” – from Yes! Summer 2018, No. 86, p. 37.
Communities Creating Economical Homes, Protecting a Renter Nation, a Different American Dream:
Read this fabulous issue for multiple solutions to the housing crisis.
What can you do to support and promote equality and justice where you live?
Recently, we had a Servas visitor from Israel. Servas, established in 1948, is the oldest host and traveler organization in the world. Its mission is to foster peace, goodwill, and mutual respect among a world-wide network of travelers and hosts.
More than 15,000 Servas hosts in more than 100 countries open their homes to travelers – like you. For two nights/three days, you can share and experience the lives of Servas hosts. For Barry and me, our very best travel experiences have often involved being with Servas hosts. For more information, go to < https://usservas.org/> or for international travel < https://www.servas.org/>.
On Maui, Barry and I are Servas hosts and feel the world comes to us. Last week, our Servas guest was Sharon, a most interesting man and wonderful visitor. His visit enabled my friends and family to have direct interaction with an Israeli; he works in a bomb deactivation unit.
Sharon realizes that many U.S. citizens don’t know the whole story and so judge Israel harshly without knowing the complex situation.
He suggests my friends to see the following links:
- The first video is done by Danny Ayalon, Founder of the “Truth About Israel,” Former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Israeli Ambassador to the United States:
“The Truth about Jerusalem” < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zz9CTBOKK4g>
- The second is by David Brog, Executive Director of the Maccabee Task Force, which was created in 2015 to combat the disturbing spread of anti-Semitism on America’s college campuses.
“Why Isn’t There a Palestinian State?” <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76NytvQAIs0>
These videos are only about five minutes each. Please watch them.
The on-going Israeli and Palestinian situation is very difficult and multifaceted.
In December 2014 – January 2015, Barry and I spent five weeks in Israel, traveling all over including being on the 10-day Servas tour of the country, living a week at Kibbutz Lotan on the Jordanian border near Egypt, visiting our friends Ruthi & Danny, whom we met through teaching in China, spending Hanukah with Clair’s Israeli relatives (she was our son John’s girlfriend at the time), being there for Christmas, and for me (not Barry because he is Jewish), going into the Palestinian Authority area to see Bethlehem; this all gave me an understanding of Israel and the very complex situation there.
I hope you can travel to Israel. The Servas hosts there, including Sharon and his family and those Barry and I met in 2014 are wonderful – and the country interesting, diverse, and complex.
Go see for yourself. If you go as a Servas traveler (a few hosts are Palestinian), you will glean insights and have experiences not readily available to most visitors – and you’ll certainly have more knowledge than you can glean from the newspapers or T.V. And talk to people, like Sharon, who actually live there.
Sharon’s visit here to Maui allowed for discussion and mutual respect. One of my friends who considered herself pro-Palestinian concluded, “Sharon is a good man.”
May Israeli and Palestinians (and all of us) walk forward in the light.
Aloha, Shalom, & As-salaamu 3aleikum (peace be with you), Renée
Recognizing the importance of peace in our hearts, our families, our schools, our community, and the world, the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry Contest recently celebrated its 19th year here on Maui – The awards ceremony, held on April 20, 2018 at the Mayor Hannibal Tavares Community Center, presented the winners from approximately 500 Maui County student entries. I attended this Maui style celebration: proud parents and friends brought leis and balloons to recognize the students, who dressed in their best clothes and had the biggest smiles.
The non-violent approach to living in the world continues to be celebrated in one way through the words and insights of the students – in the footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Here in Hawaii, Melinda Gohn has been the guiding light of the Peace Poem project.
Melinda has help from loyal volunteers.
More than 70 students, including four from Molokai, were recognized for their poems: thoughts and words of peace.
As part of the ceremony, Melinda had us close our eyes – and imagine the past.
Suddenly, we heard a voice resonate through the hall and opened our eyes to see the august Bryant Neal presenting Dr. Martin Luther King, J’s “I Have a Dream” speech! Fantastic!!
The Maui County grand prize for her award-winning poem “I Am Running” went to Olena Rondeau, a 4th grader at Roots School of Maui. She was present with a canvas painting donated by Maui artist Davo. Of the poem, Melinda Gohn said in The Maui News article about the event, “Rondeau’s poem uses immediacy with unusually perceptive images and metaphors to create an experiential poem uniquely reflecting Hawaii and the innocence of a planet at peace” ( May 6, 2018 p. B8).
I Am Running
I am running through a gardenia scented twilight
Beneath a raspberry, dark blue and purple sky I am running . . . .
Above me, a canopy of stars
Millions of tiny pinpoints of light
Shining in the night. . . .
Suddenly a meteor streaks across the sky
Red-yellow flames light up the night.
The falling star reminds me
that the world is full of magic”
by Olena Rondeau.
At the ceremony, Gwyn Gorg, President of the African Americans On Maui Association, congratulated Rondeau and all the contest winners and spoke of the importance of a peaceful Maui community.
Hawaii Governor Ige provided certificates for top winners, Mayor Alan Arakawa gave all winners a certificate, and the International Peace Poem Project gave a prize poster commemorating Dr King.
All the islands have such award ceremonies. The Molokai awards are set for May 30 from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m at the Molokai Library; the Oahu awards are June 9, 9:30-11:30 a.m. at the Mission Memorial Auditorium.
Congratulations to all involved for recognizing the importance of peace in our hearts, our families, our schools, our community, and the world.
Aloha (in light & peace), Renée
[America] is really where the experiment is unfolding. This is really where the races confront one another, where the classes, where the genders, where even the sexual orientations confront one another. This is the real laboratory of democracy”
– Leonard Cohen
“After baseball, America’s favorite pastime may be the process of reinventing itself, continuously redefining its identity and searching for its soul”
– Brenda Payton
“We take freedom for granted, and because of this we don’t understand how incredibly vulnerable it is”
There is much to be done wherever you are.
Quotations from The Sun, Issue 493, January 2017, p. 48.
Recently, New Philosopher magazine published an article by Massimo Pigliucci that we think you’ll find interesting – and useful for your own life:
“People think that philosophy is about pondering, and ideally answering, questions like the following ones: Does life have meaning? What is a life worth living? How can we best deal with the negative moments in life? But if you walk into a typical modern philosophy university department, seeking a professor to help you out with those queries, you will be sorely disappointed. Instead, you will be offered training in formal logic (which doesn’t hurt, for sure), a bit of history of philosophy (mostly dead white men, but increasingly less so of late), and a lot of thought experiments based on absurdly unlikely situations – such as a trolley bearing down a track and about to kill five people, unless you push a fat man (sorry, a corpulent individual) off a bridge, thus trading one innocent life for five others.
That’s too bad, as philosophy used to be eminently practical. Indeed, in ancient Athens and Rome the questions above were precisely the ones you would ask Socrates, Aristotle, Epicurus, Diogenes of Sinope, Cicero, Epictetus, or countless others who spent their lives trying to help people figure out the best way to navigate existence. So, despite being myself an academic philosopher (specialty: philosophy of science), I will endeavour to answer those three questions from a particular perspective, that of the Hellenistic philosophy known as Stoicism, of which I try to be a decent practitioner.
Let’s start with the first one on the list: Does life have meaning? The Stoics were materialists, believers in universal cause and effect. They were also very much into science (as we would call it today), and understood that human beings are a particular kind of animal, with two distinctive characteristics: we are highly social, and we are capable of reason. It follows that we should, as they put it, live life “according to nature”, meaning human nature. And this translates to the notion that our purpose in life is to use our intellect to help others, to make society a better place for everyone to live in. As Marcus Aurelius, the emperor-philosopher, wrote: “As you yourself are a component part of a social system, so let every act of yours be a component part of social life.”
Well that was easy, wasn’t it? OK, on to the second question: What is a life worth living? Here the Stoics had an immediate and unflinching answer: a life of virtue, specifically one in which we practise the four cardinal virtues: practical wisdom (the ability to navigate morally complex situations in the best possible way); courage (to stand up and do the right thing); justice (knowing what is the right thing to do); and temperance (acting in right measure – not too much, not too little).
The reason for this emphasis on virtue, and therefore on the development of one’s character, is eminently Socratic. Socrates argued in the Euthydemus that wisdom (of which the four virtues are different aspects) is the only thing that is always good, because it can never be used to do bad. Everything else, including wealth, health, education, and all the other externals, are morally neutral: they can be deployed for a good or a bad use, depending on the character of the individual. The life worth living, then, is one by the end of which you can look back and think, yes, that was a good thing. As Epictetus tells his students, that judgement isn’t going to depend on whether you’ll be rich, or famous, or whatever, but only on who you are as a person, and hence on your relationships with others:
The following are non sequiturs: ‘I am richer, therefore superior to you’; or ‘I am a better speaker, therefore a better person, than you.’
The last question that remains to be addressed is: How can we best deal with the negative moments in life? The temptation is to play on the common stereotype of Stoics as people who go through life with a stiff upper lip and respond, “well, life is tough, deal with it”. But the actual Stoic take is more sophisticated. It is centred on what is known as the dichotomy of control, which Epictetus famously summarises at the beginning of the Enchiridion:
Some things are within our power, while others are not. Within our power are opinion, motivation, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever is of our own doing; not within our power are our body, our property, reputation, office, and, in a word, whatever is not of our own doing.
If this sounds familiar it is because the same sentiment is found in 8th century Buddhism, 11th century Judaism, and – of course – in the 20th century Christian Serenity Prayer adopted by 12-step organisations like Alcoholics Anonymous. The idea is to make a sharp distinction between what is completely under our control, what actually defines us, and everything else, whether it is entirely outside of our control (like, say, the weather) or if we can influence it but ultimately do not control it. That is why Epictetus puts in the second class things like our body, reputation, and career. Sure, I can influence my body by going to the gym regularly and sticking to a healthy diet, but disease could strike at any moment, through no doing of my own. Yes, I can influence my reputation, or make career choices, but the outcomes are not entirely in my hands.
This implies, according to the Stoics, that we should aim at internalising our goals, while at the same time developing an attitude of equanimity towards whatever the universe throws our way. This is most definitely not a counsel for passive acceptance: we ought to do our best in whatever it is to which we apply our mind. But we also need to enjoy (without glee or arrogance) when things go our way, and accept (without resentment or self pity) when they do not. Why? Because that is the way the world works, and a sure recipe for unhappiness is to constantly assume that the world isn’t the way it actually is.
If we succeed in internalising the dichotomy of control, Epictetus promises us that we “will never be subject to force or hindrance, [we] will never blame or criticise anyone, and everything [we] do will be done willingly.” Now that’s a recipe for a life worth living!”
(New Philosopher,#19: Life, p. 59-60)
For more on “How to be a Stoic,” go to Pigliucci’s blog
Aloha, R & B
The small book by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles shares advice from the residents of the Japanese village with the highest percentage of 100-year-olds in the world. In addition to the wisdom about purposeful, active, shared lives of these seniors, the authors note the importance of the Japanese concepts of wabi-sabi and ichi-go ichi-e.
“Wabi-sabi is a Japanese concept that shows us the beauty of the fleeting, changeable, and imperfect nature of the world around us. Instead of searching for beauty in perfection, we should look for it things that are flawed, incomplete.
This is why the Japanese place such value, for example, on an irregular or cracked teacup. Only things that are imperfect, incomplete, and ephemeral can truly be beautiful, because only those things resemble the natural world.
A complementary Japanese concept is that of ichi-go ichi-e, which could be translated as ‘This moment exists only now and won’t come again.’ It is heard most often in social gatherings as a reminder that each encounter –whether with friends, family, or strangers–is unique and will never be repeated, meaning that we should enjoy the moment and not lose ourselves in worries about the past or the future.
The concept is commonly used in tea ceremonies, Zen meditation, and Japanese martial arts, all of which place emphasis on being present in the moment.
In the West, we’ve grown accustomed to the permanence of the stone buildings and cathedrals of Europe, which sometimes gives us the sense that nothing changes, making us forget about the passage of time. Greco-Roman architecture adores symmetry, sharp lines, imposing facades, and buildings and statues of the gods that outlast the centuries.
Japanese architecture, on the other hand, doesn’t try to be imposing or perfect, because it is built in the spirit of wabi-sabi. The tradition of making structures out of wood presupposes their impermanence and the need for future generations to rebuild them. Japanese culture accepts the fleeting nature of the human being and everything we create.
The Grand Shrine of Ise, for example, has been rebuilt every twenty years for centuries. The most important thing is not to keep the building standing for generations, but to preserve customs and traditions–things that can withstand the passage of time better than structures made by human hands.
The key is to accept that there are certain things over which we have no control, like the passage of time and the ephemeral nature of the world around us.
Ichi-go ichi-e teaches us to focus on the present and enjoy each moment that life brings us. This is why it is so important to find and pursue our ikigai [a meaning and purpose in life that keeps you busy or as the New York Post says, “ ikigai is the art of doing something—and doing it with supreme focus and joy”].
Wabi-sabi teaches us to appreciate the beauty of imperfection as an opportunity for growth” . . .
One step in lasting longer and being happier in your life is –
“Get rid of the things that make you fragile . . .
Ask yourself: What makes me fragile? Certain people, things, and habits generate losses for us and make us vulnerable. Who and what are they?
When we make our New Year’s resolutions, we tend to emphasize adding new challenges to our lives. It’s great to have this kind of objective, but setting ‘good riddance’ goals can have an even bigger impact. For example:
- Stop snacking between meals
- Eat sweets only once a week
- Gradually pay off all debt
- Avoid spending time with toxic people
- Avoid spending time doing things we don’t enjoy, simply because we feel obligated to do them
- Spend no more than twenty minutes on Facebook per day.
To build resilience into our lives, we shouldn’t fear adversity, because each setback is an opportunity for growth. If we adopt an antifragile attitude, we’ll find a way to get stronger with every blow, refining our lifestyle and staying focused on our ikigai.
Taking a hit or two can be viewed as either a misfortune or an experience that we can apply to all areas of our lives, as we continually make corrections and set new and better goals. As Taleb writes in Antifragile, ‘We need randomness, mess, adventures, uncertainty, self-discovery, near traumatic episodes, all these things that make life worth living.’ . . .
Life is pure imperfection, as the philosophy of wabi-sabi teaches us, and the passage of time shows us that everything is fleeting, but if you have a clear sense of your ikigai, each moment will hold so many possibilities that it will seem almost like an eternity” (p. 172-179).
No matter your age, Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life is likely to give you useful ideas on how to lead a good life.
For 25 years, Kathy has been tending her garden. The result is spectacular. Recently, friends Audrey, Gail, and I were invited UpCountry to see her island paradise.
Before you get too impressed by my knowledge of all these plant names, you should know that Kathy is the source. 🙂
Hohenbergia stellat (left); Azelas (top right); and Amaranthus (bottom right)
The flowers varied in color, shape, texture, and smell.
Medinilla scortechinii (top left); Gail & Kathy (bottom left)
Blossoms of various colors and shapes:
Fishtail palm seeds (left); Bloodleaf (right)
Beauty was everywhere we looked in Kathy’s garden.
In addition, Kathy’s garden has been the source of many of the ti leaves that have become part of the “Leis of Aloha” – begun in Kihei, Maui, at Nalu’s Restaurant and sent around the world as an act of solidarity and love after the tragedies in Paris, Las Vegas, San Bernadino, Orlando, . . . and most recently, with other islands contributing, a 3-mile ti leaf lei was sent to the children in Parkland, Florida. Such leis have also been created for celebration of the Hawaiian outrigger Hokulea’s return from its three year world-wide voyage – “Malama Honua.”
Happy Spring. Enjoy planting – and visiting – gardens wherever you are.
P.S. Banner photo: Obake anthurium
All plant names supplied by Kathy with technical assistance from “the lawn boy”; all photos, except for the ti leaf leis, are by me. 🙂