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It’s A Monkey Pod Tree

Copyright 2012 © by Ramsay Taum

The twinkle in his eye told me he had heard me and now I was in trouble.  I hadn’t done anything inappropriate or wrong, but instead had asked a question that would be the source of a simple but powerful lesson.

Earlier that day I received a phone call from “Papa” who simply said, “Boy, come pick me up,”  words that never failed to get my heart racing and my feet moving.  A recognized and respected kupuna (elder) and community leader Papa had become a mentor, and at times a tormentor sending me off on quests for information and “intelligence” only to learn later he had the information all along.

On this particular day we were seated at his favorite table, strategically located in a dining room frequented by many of Honolulu’s movers and shakers.  As they passed each would greet him with a handshake, pat on the back or hug, while acknowledging one or more of his titles earned over many years of community service.  I sat as a witness, impressed and in wonder like a fern among redwoods.

“Papa, how did you get to be who and where you are?” I asked.  At first it appeared he didn’t hear me so I repeated my question, “Papa how did you get to be who and where you are today?”

After what seemed like an eternity, he put his fork down, wiped the corners of his mouth and pointed to a tree standing in the court yard and asked me, “Boy what kind of tree is that?”  Cautiously, I gathered myself and carefully answered, “It’s a monkey pod tree.”   He smiled and resumed eating.

A few minutes later he looked up from his plate again pointing to a smaller  tree occupying the opposite corner of the courtyard repeating his question, “What kind of tree is that?”

This time with a little more confidence I responded, “Its a monkey pod tree.”

He smiled at me with a look of accomplishment and replied, “That’s how,” and returned to his meal.

Confused at first, it took me a minute to realize that he had craftily exposed the true question nested in the the one that I had asked him which had less to do with how he arrived at his station in life, and more to do with how I could get there!  Papa’s two word response to my question was reduced to a single one: Time!

The grin on my face invited an explanation that with proper treatment, care and nutrition supported by a healthy and safe environment, in time a small monkey pod will eventually grow into a large one providing shelter for some, and shade for others.  But the lesson didn’t end there.

To my surprise he then asked me to describe what was growing under the larger of the two monkey pods.  When I told him I didn’t see anything growing there he once again smiled and pointed out that there are very few things that can grow in the shade of a monkey pod.

Papa’s message was simple but profound.  In time the little tree would become a big one, but not if it tried to grow in the shadow of the other. Eventually each of us must step out from under the canopies that comfort and shelter us if we hope to some day do the same for others.

Perhaps an equally important lesson learned that day was that the answers we seek are only as good as the questions we ask!

~ Ramsay

“100% Part-Hawaiian”




Coffee & Tea

(2012 © Ramsay Taum)

Now that you have awoken from your years of deep slumber, welcome to a world of opportunity and wonder.

When you wake from your nightmares to live out your dreams, take care not to assume the rest of us slept with you despite what it seems.

In order to “smell the coffee” when you woke up, others rose earlier to brew that first cup, and before them to pick hundreds of beans to fill that first pot like it or not.

Long before those beans were picked processed and packed, them beans were planted in soil weeded, hoed and tilled by others who had risen much earlier still.

Enjoy your coffee . . . while others drink tea.


“100% part-Hawaiian “

Aloha: The Heart Beat of this Land

Copyright 2012 © by Ramsay Taum

My teacher and mentor Pilahi Pākī predicted Hawai’i would be a source of inspiration and healing for a world in turmoil, that the Spirit of Aloha knows no boundaries and would be the inspiration and source of World Peace one day!  Recent events suggest not only were her predictions accurate, but that her message is as important now as it was 25 years ago.

Six months after political and economic leaders from 21 Asia-Pacific economies met in Waikīkī to discuss the economic future of the region, the Dalai Lama spoke to crowds of thousands at the University of Hawai‘i about Advancing Peace through the Power of Aloha.   In his message to 9000 public and private high school students, His Holiness spoke about the key ingredients of inner peace, how we are all part of a human family that needs to come together and that peace can come from a smile.

A week before the Dalai Lama’s visit, attendees at “Me Ke Aloha,” the 20th Annual Celebration of the Arts (COA) at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua on Maui heard panelists representing Native-American, Tibetan Buddhist, Kenyan, Samoan and Hawaiian culture demonstrate how “Aloha Lives in Distant Lands.”  Panelists shared stories illustrating similar native values such as reverence for nature, interdependence of community, and unbroken ties between ancestors and generations to come. Like the audiences that heard His Holiness on O’ahu, COA attendees on Maui discovered Aloha is more than a greeting, and not exclusive to Hawai‘i. They learned Aloha can be found at the core of all indigenous communities and at the heart of universal values we share as a global family living in a World of Aloha . . . on an island suspended in the sea of space.

Clayton and Al Naluai may have said it best in their song YOU GOTTA FEEL ALOHA:

“You gotta feel ALOHA, ALOHA brings us all together.  Sing ALOHA when you’re looking for fun and pleasure. Say ALOHA, reach out and lend a helping hand. You gotta feel ALOHA, ALOHA . . .  the heartbeat of this land!”


The Aloha of Star Trek

 Copyright 2012 © Teri Freitas Gorman

Long before the magic of VCRs or DVRs, I discovered my kiddy reel-to-reel tape recorder could capture the sounds of my favorite TV shows.  Why wait an entire week for Star Trek? I could replay my audiotape whenever I wanted. A single earplug and tightly closed eyes enabled any episode to replay in the theater of my mind.

I recently heard a recording of a talk given by Star Trek’s creator, the late Gene Roddenberry, years after his weekly show had become a cult phenomenon. He posed this straightforward question, ““How can a simple space opera with blinking lights, zap guns and a hobgoblin with pointy ears reach out and touch the hearts and minds of literally millions of people?”

His answer?

“We (the producers of Star Trek) believed that the often-ridiculed mass audience is sick of this world’s petty nationalism and all its old ways and old hatreds and that people are not only willing, but anxious to think beyond those petty beliefs that have for so long kept mankind divided,” explained Roddenberry. “The whole show was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but to take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms.  We tried to say the worst possible thing that can happen to all of us is for the future to somehow press us into a common mold where we begin to act and talk and look and think alike.”

Every day technology advances the homogenization of cultures through its unrelenting campaign to get us to “act and talk and look and think alike.” It is difficult to resist the hypnotic spell cast by multinational retailers, formulaic food franchises, and insipid hip hop pop culture.  But resist we must. For if aloha is to survive, then Hawaiian culture and the culture of Hawai‘i must survive.

 Roddenberry’s message reached this budding Trekkie, even at the naive age of 9. What I recognized was the aloha spirit freely shared among the multicultural and inter-species crew of the USS Enterprise. The human-Vulcan Mr. Spock would simply be called “hapa” or “mixed,” in Hawai‘i, and television’s first interracial kiss between Lieutenant Uhuru and Captain Kirk would have gone unnoticed in the islands, where “mixed marriage” is the norm.

Let us perpetuate our culture, our language, our unique ways of life.  Let us go beyond tolerance and take a special delight in our differences. Let us be aloha. Let us live long and prosper.

Aloha Lives in Kenya

Copyright 2012 © Teri Freitas Gorman

Clifford Nae‘ole, E Ola Pono partner and producer of the annual Celebration of the Arts at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, selected “Me ke Aloha” (with aloha for all) as the theme for this year’s event held on Easter weekend.  His idea was to use the theme to demonstrate that aloha lives in many places, it is just known by many different names.

The theme was perhaps best expressed in a panel discussion between Failautusi Avegalio, a Samoan chief and University of Hawaii business professor; Anne Gachuhi, a Kenya native now living on Maui; the Venerable Lama Gyal­tsen, spiritual director and resident teacher of the Maui Dharma Center; flo wiger (she spells her name with lowercase letters), retired University of Hawaii educator and a member of the Standing Rock (Lakota Sioux) Nation; and Ramsay Taum, Native Hawaiian community leader and E Ola Pono partner.

Each panelist shared similar stories illustrating native values such as reverence for nature, interdependence of community, and the unbroken ties between the ancestors and generations to come. Yet, one panelist, Anne Gachuhi was able to sum up the spirit of aloha in one word, “harambee.”

Harambee is a Kiswahili word that means, “Let us all pull together.” According to Anne, the term harambee can involve a kind of community fundraising; but harambee is much more than this. People come together to achieve a common goal irrespective of religion, heritage, race, or ethnicity. Entire communities come together to contribute materials and labor needed to host a wedding, build a new home, fund a child’s education, or to commemorate a life at a funeral. The invitation to harambee cannot be turned down. Participation is motivated by a desire to contribute to the collective good without thought of individual gain.

These principles of harambee, of aloha, are found at the core of all indigenous communities and are, in fact, universal human values. The interdependence of individuals is the stuff from which communities are created. Aloha and harambee are the nutrients that enable communities to grow and thrive. Me ke aloha—with aloha to all. Harambee—let us pull together.

The Aloha Spirit Law

Copyright 2012 © Teri Freitas Gorman

“Hawaiʻi is what the United States is striving to become,” President John F. Kennedy stated just months before his death in 1963. He was referring, of course, to the islands’ multiracial, multiethnic, multicultural society. Forty-five years later, Barak Obama would become the nation’s first biracial president; it is no coincidence that he was born and raised in Hawai’i, where ethnic differences define us, rather than divide us.

While politically Hawai’i is now part of the United States, culturally and geographically it remains a land unto itself. Located at the crosswords between East and West, Hawai’i’s unique cultural environment blends customs and traditions from Polynesia, Asia, North America and Europe.

According to a new analysis of the latest census figures, nearly one-third of Hawaii marriages are between interracial couples — four times the national average. When ethnicities are taken into account, more than half of Hawai’i marriages are mixed. It is common for Hawaii-born children to have eight or more ethnicities in their heritage.

Despite Hawai’i’s exotic DNA blends, it is the Native Hawaiian host culture that provides the common ground of Aloha. The Aloha Spirit Law is an actual state law, encoded in the Hawai`i Revised Statutes, section 5-7.5, acknowledging that The Aloha Spirit “is the working philosophy of Native Hawaiians and was presented as a gift to the people of Hawai‘i.”  It begins by explaining the Aloha Spirit is the coordination of mind and heart within each person. It brings each person to the Self. Each person must think and emote good feelings to others. In the contemplation and presence of the life force, Aloha.

Aloha Mai Kākou-Welcome

Welcome to Aloha in Hawai‘i,

We are Native Hawaiians who have grown up in two worlds. One world, full of the wisdom of nature and spirit, was passed on to us by our ancestors. The other world, full of information and technology, was given to us by those who have come to our islands since 1778.

We believe “eia ka manawa” (now is the time) to combine the best of these two worlds in our website. Here we will share our mana‘o (thoughts, beliefs, opinions) on how Hawaiian values, virtues and spiritual beliefs can help to heal a family, a community, a state, a nation, or a planet. We offer these ideas as a gift, in the generous spirit of our ancestors and elders such as Kupuna Pilahi Paki (1910 – 1985).

Aunty Pilahi was born and raised on the island of Maui. A well-known figure in the Hawaiian community, she was a spiritual leader and rights activist. In 1970, she was invited to share the meaning of aloha at the millennial Governor’s Conference in Honolulu. She told the attendees, “…in the next millennium, the world will turn to Hawai‘i in its search for world peace because Hawai‘i has the key…and that key is ALOHA.”

Please share your mana‘o with us and with one another.

Me ke aloha pumehana (with warmest aloha),

Clifford, Teri, Kahu and Ramsay