Where there is a will there is a way

Sunday, August 16, 2009

About being in a real group

There is a wonderful essay that I found in the front of a booklet about the Awataha Marae on the North Shore, from when it was being built.

My children (who are not Maori) go to Kohanga Reo, and I love this opportunity I have been blessed with to learn about how a healthy and natural human society functions, one that is not connected to a religion-- but a people.

This is what his essay said:

Te iwi marai kore, e hara…
Te marae iwi kore, he moumou.

--Maori Proverb –

People without a marae, are nothing…
A marae without people, is wasted.

If a Maori was asked as to what he thought was the difference in the principal characteristics of a city and the principal characteristics of this traditional rural home, I am certain he would say, that culture dwelt there on the marae, and very little in a city without a marae. A city dweller unless he wanted to, need not participate in communal, cultural and public life. He will have few friends and no neighbours. In a concrete jungle with its labrynth of streets with large concentrations of human beings, a person may enjoy complete detachment from social and civic responsibilities. He will experience a kind of freedom and solitude as he might find in the Antarctic.

That sort of freedom in a rural environment, has never meant that the Maori was free from the restraints, the obligations and responsibilities imposed upon him by the elders, the family and the community which are additional to the ordinary restraints imposed by the law of the land. Every Maori is checked by local opinion and by a strong opinion of the religious community of which he or she is a member.

All the restraints within reasonable limits, make the life of the Maori on the marae and in a rural community, more purposeful, and more conscious of value than the so-called freedom of suburbia. After all they are restraints which are the true and necessary foundations of culture, based on the marae and the community it serves. A feature of Maori national and social life is that they do not live as solitary beings, but as members of a social organism.

The concept of a marae, a Turangawaewae (a place to stand on) is profound. Indeed it is almost a prerequisite to the fostering of Maori culture, the cultivation of the language and the preservation of customs and aspirations which is an integral part of our New Zealand heritage.

There are several urban marae to the East, to the West and to the South of Auckland and rural marae to the North, but none on the North Shore – serving a large Maori population and the community in general. I congratulate the trustees for their foresight and untiring efforts to rectify this serious omission.

The Marae on the Shore will play an increasing and important part in bringing together young and old of all ethnic groups resulting, I am sure, in better understanding and tolerance.

I sincerely hope that City fathers and the community at large will give this necessary and worthwhile project their whole-hearted support and commend this booklet to as wide a readership as possible.

He rangi ka aohia, he huruhuru ka rere te manu.

The dawn is nigh, without feathers a bird cannot fly.

Kia kaha, kia manawanui.

Kia Ora roa mai koutou katoa.

Sir James Henare

I love it. This "right" our culture teaches us to feel we have to individual choice and freedom is really the counterbalance for responsibility. You can see the fullest effect of this belief in the right to freedom over responsibility in America, in the States, where they do want to be free, but have also lost much due to this freedom. I just love how he states this truth, that when we believe we are being free, and practicing a right of personal choice, we are really choosing to neglect our responsibilities to others in our community.

The Maori community that I have seen operating is so different to what I am used to, in that the people, the teachers that are members, truly act like one entity, a part of a group. This sounds normal, but it's actually radically different to how people function nowadays. We act as a group somewhat, but at the same time playing our individual interests. These people discuss their feelings, acknowledge and include all parts of the human soul, in group discussion, spirituality, whether someone was insulted or hurt, enjoy music and food... To act as a group in all aspects of life has been a real eye-opener to me. I've been privileged, and feel more complete, to have been a part of it. The plus side is that each individual does not stand alone, having to be this super-achiever. We are all more like little children, listening to those with more experience, the older people, all along the path. The older people guide the younger, so you're not alone in being "an adult". And, parts of myself which would be neglected, or feel lonely, by the normal city culture, are now happy. Especially the act of whipping out a guitar, for everyone to sing, is supercool. Nobody would ever be able to do that coming from the culture I came from.

1 comment:

Ruby in the Dust said...

yes, I think it can be very selfish to choose to ignore the community around you...