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On the Value of Whanaungatanga

You know I’ve been thinking … there is an unwritten rule (actually there’s many, but anyway) that when we suffer, we should suffer in private, in silence even, hiding in a corner somewhere licking our wounds; only emerging when we can put on a brave face, a ‘right’ face for the world. Yeah well, fuck that! There is great value in sharing our wounds, our heartaches, our suffering. One, it provides presentation of experience that others can learn from, and two it enables us to reach out and benefit from those with similar experiences, to share in their wisdom and destroy the illusion of individual aloneness. If you know me, then you know I will often go blaaaaaaah, spew forth whatever it is that is on my mind, that is catching my imagination or firing my passion, whether it be the woes of a troubled and unkind world, or the personal ups and downs that plague day-to-day life as we know it.

For me personally, it has been a long year. A difficult year. A year of sad endings and fragile beginnings. Of new and painful experiences. I made a decision recently to finally let go of a person who has been incredibly important in my life, and who has throughout our time together, tried only to love me as best he could. I am humbled by his gifts to me, and pained at the wounds that life inflicts on each of us, leaving scars that mar our ability to love fully; to feel actually, and the damage that can do in our lives. And in our relationships. Whether they are the wounds that afflict the many collectively (racism, sexism, homophobia, yeah you know the ones), or the ones we inflict on each other. Too often ‘letting go’ is not seen as an act of love – we are told if we love we must possess, cling, hold captive. I don’t buy that story: to want what’s best for an ‘other’, even if that best is life without you, is love in its truest sense. Anyway, big changes ahead, the future is uncertain, and exciting and terrifying all at the same time. Lip service is paid to the value of ‘aloneness’ as a vehicle for growth – I’m about to test that out.

I can’t remember where I read it, but I know I’ve read or heard advice to choose wisely those whom you have in your life, for each and every one of them is a mirror, a reflection of who you are. I have had pause to look around at the extraordinary people in my life of late, and to feel an enormous amount of gratitude for that reflection. In a rampantly-individualistic society there is not enough appreciation I think of how much we rise and fall and rise again based on the whānau, the community we have around us for support. Much is made of the ‘self-made man’ (of course, would have to be male – usually white), who can revel in his own success; indeed has earned the right!! What a load of shit . There is not one ‘self-made’ human who has not achieved what they have without the assistance, great and small, of the many faceless, nameless others who have worked for them, cooked their dinner, taxi-ed them, cleaned their office, worked for minimum wage for them or whatever. We are all connected materially as well as spiritually. This is not new, it is what our tupuna have always known …

‘Ehara taku toa I te toa takitahi, Ēngari ko taku toa ko te takikotahi’
My strength does not lie in working alone. Rather my strength lies in working with others

And that we benefit from ancestral wisdom, handed down, regardless of who we are, Māori and non-, is also proof of the ‘self-made’, ‘individual’ illusion. So to those living and not who have and do keep me smiling , even when I feel fully the suffering that exists everywhere, including within, with all my heart and soul, arohanui to you.

He mōrehu ahau. I am a survivor. He mōrehu mātou. We all are.


Whānau – family, collective; Whanaungatanga – relationship, collective support; Tupuna – ancestor(s); Mōrehu – survivor
Please note, as with any translation, the English equivalent does not necessarily capture the meaning of the words in their entirety

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Robb #

    I was just working on a writing of my own on solitude in the mountains. I went away from it as I realized that my solitude in the mountains is only part of the equation, and my thoughts about it were not quite clear enough as of yet. While, for me, it is about the mountains, yet as you have pointed out, that journey encompasses so much more that relate to other parts of my life. Sometimes good and sometimes not so good. Even though it may seem we are alone, and we are, which I think at times is a noble pursuit, it is good to discover that our Aloneness can make us richer.
    Look forward to reading more.

    November 5, 2007

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