Teaching our children to save the planet by respecting each other and the land like the Hawaiians did.
One of the Hawaiian phrases that I am teaching my sons is the Hawaii State Motto: Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ‘Āina i ka Pono. I originally taught my sons this phrase to connect them with the island of their grandparents and great grandparents, but lately this ‘ōlelo no’eau (wise proverb) has become a daily practice.
Ua mau ke ea o ka ‘āina i ka pono has been translated as “the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.” One of my teachers, Auntie Suzi Kawaioniokekaikaiona’okalani Ko told me that ‘āina doesn’t just mean land. ‘Āina is that which feeds or provides sustenance, so it could be our environment; thoughts; feelings; and relationships with God, ‘aumākua (spirit guides), ōhana (family), and friends.
Another teacher, Pono Shim shared that pono doesn’t just mean righteousness. Pono is how we live. Are we in alignment with the Divine, with nature, with ‘āina?
So my eight and five year old sons understand the motto as “if we are not pono, then we will die.” They know like the First Nation Peoples that “when the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.”
The funny thing is I rarely have to teach them what it means to be pono. The opposite of pono is pilikia—to be in conflict, anger, trouble. I often ask my sons, “Is that pono or pilikia?” and they never get it wrong. They always know in their na’au (guts) what is pono.
When we see trash on the ground, they know it is pono to pick it up. The other day, some people left a pile of trash on the sidewalk in front of our condo. “Is that pono or pilikia?” I asked.
“Pilikia,” Jett answered, “Let’s pick it up.”
As we were picking up fast food containers and plastic boba tea containers, I started getting upset about how the youth in my community have no regard for their environment (according to my worldview).
“Fricken, Tea Pumpers,” I said under my breath. (Tea Pumps is the boba tea shop right in front of our complex that is packed with high school and college kids.)
Then I looked at my son who was happily picking up the trash. Who was pono and pilikia in that moment?
Sometimes my wife will tell me how 8 year old Jett pinched 5 year old Fox. I simply say, “ua mau ke ea o ka ‘āina i ka pono.” Jett understands. If he is pilikia towards his brother, then he is hurting his ‘āina, his environment, his feelings, his life. Later I will teach the boys another ‘ōlelo no’eau—‘O ka huhū ka mea I ho’ola’ole ai which means “anger brings forth no life.”
Recently, we have deepened the practice. We were listening to the radio where a man was talking about social justice. I asked Jett if he thought this man was pono or pilikia just by listening to his voice. Jett listened for a while then replied, “pilikia.”
I told him that it doesn’t matter if what you are saying is correct. If you are pilikia when you say it, then you are destroying ‘āina. We now try to be pono not just in what we say and do, but how we say and do it.
In the future, I’m going to teach my boys how to be pono in terms of sexuality. I’m going to have them ask themselves if they feel in their na’au whether it is right to have sex with someone. If it doesn’t feel right in their guts, then it is not pono, even if the other person wants to have sex.
On a recent GMP conference call, we were talking about “enthusiastic consent.” It is important for boys to wait for enthusiastic consent before expressing their sexuality, but it is more important for everyone to be pono in everything we do. I’ve heard stories of women who gave enthusiastic consent, later regretted it, and charged men with rape. If everyone knew that their lives depended on being pono, then the coitus, the false charge, and the rape would never have happened.
Imagine a world where everyone checked in with their na’au before they did or said anything. “Is this pono? Am I a being pono while saying or doing this?” I can honestly say that our lives depend on how many people start being pono every day.
Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ‘Āina i ka Pono