Feb 5, 2017

Pō and the Kumulipo

The Kumulipo in my opinion is one of the greatest Hawaiian narratives ever composed. Its metrics is seem designed to imitate the ocean waves with its high and low tides and its symbolism while appearing to be literal, hints at numerous philosophical points. One of the points I wanted to break down is on the Kumulipo’s emphasis on non-localized phenomenal existence.
In the beginning of the Kumulipo narration, there is an ever changing earth amid a singular universe expanding into the night, into the unknown realms, into . With the expansion and natural chaos occurring on earth, this , this singular universe, inherently has its own conscience. begans to engage in a search for meaning.
So it breaks itself apart, first into binary parts—Kumulipo and Pō’ele. The name Kumulipo itself is composed of two words: Kumu in this case meaning source and lipo referring to an abstract image of a distant dark deep blue-black endless depth (as in a cave, the deep sea, or deep space). Pō’ele on the hand is often translated as dark or deepest black night. But there is also another meaning. ‘Ele also means embryo. So while Kumulipo suggests an endless depth, Po’ele suggests a deepness that can be imagined and has its own shape, like an embryo. These two juxtaposed together is similar to the two-soul concept of wailua and ‘uhane. The wailua is a projection of the ‘uhane and cannot exist outside of a body or shell because we cannot perceive such a conscious without some kind of form or shape similar to suggestion of Pō’ele’s name. But without the wailua, the ‘uhane could not be perceived. But both the ‘uhane and the wailua form a basis how we perceive the spiritual consciousness in the same way that the universe divided itself into Kumulipo and Pō’ele in order to understand its own consciousness. The universe then divides itself further into the various creatures on earth and then into deities and man, investing its own consciousness into every life form.
This is why in the Kumulipo chant, the akua are relevant only in the progress of the universe understanding itself. There are no creator gods nor is there a need for one (or more) in the narration. Nature emerges or is born from , from the consciousness of own self. With the birth of the gods, it no longer simply engages itself in a natural form. wants to be perceived. It wants to engage on an entirely different level. It wants to engage in the different levels of consciousness. It needs to evolve and wants to interact. But it also knows that it needs forms to engage other parts of its consciousness, hence the akua. This is why is also “the realm of the gods” as well as the realm of the departed ancestors because our consciousness will return to the source, to .
We are Pō , the universe, trying to understand and perceive itself.

Hawaiian Ali'i and Western Architecture

There always was criticism about the houses and dress of Hawaiians in the 19th century particularly the ali'i. I have heard Hawaiians say "Oh they wear haole clothes" and "Oh they live in haole houses". Statements such as that are totally poho and po'opa'a. In this century, we live in a time that Hawaiians can wear a malo during a graduation ceremony at UH. But the mentality back then a century ago was sharply different due to political, social, and cultural pressures. Hawaiians were a recognized nation and one of the last Pacific countries to avoid colonialism. Tahiti and Aotearoa's colonization had directly impacted the minds of many of the Hawaiian ali'i. Hawaiians were being --yes even during the Kingdom era--to become "civilized" (read Westernized. That was not only true of Hawaiians, but also of Japanese, Chinese, Turks, and Thais. There was a long period of time in the 19th and 20th century where the Japanese Imperial Family and the Thai Royal Family was rarely ever photographed or painted in their national attires. Japan and Hawai'i in particular pursued a strong and deliberate national policy of internal-Westernization in order to cope with the traumatic changes emanating from Europe and America as a result of the Industrial Revolution. The motto of the Meiji government at that time was "Western Technology, Japanese spirit". In Hawaiian newspapers there's tons of comments about being "civilized". 
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Queen Emma's pili grass hale

The ali'i were constantly being pressured to adopt English, to behave as proper English aristocrats, and to be well versed in European history and law in order to project to the major powers that Hawai'i was a country that the West could do business with on equal terms. There was also the mana'o of many Hawaiians that we needed to adopt these ideas, ways of living and technology because it would improve the lives of the people (i.e. hospitals) and would put Hawai'i on an equal footing with other powers. But the ali'i were still Hawaiian. Queen Emma lamented on her travels to England how she missed fish and poi. The photo attached is a photo of Queen Emma's pili grass hale that one stood at Hanaiakalama. This is where she would relax, talk in Hawaiian with her staff and be Hawaiian All of the ali'i were like that. All of them felt more comfortable in the traditional Hawaiian ways than what they were being pressured to adopt. Western clothes did not make a Hawaiian ali'i less Hawaiian. It is only when a Hawaiian has decided against maintaining their ancestral ties to the land, turns away from his/her kuleana to the community and has adopted values alien to Hawaiian culture such as unbridled consumerism that the Hawaiian has lost touch.