Friday, February 15, 2013

Of Dualities and Priorities in the Land of Aloha

Dualities exist everywhere and in most anything. Masculine vs feminine, good vs bad, light vs darkness, yin vs yang, intuition vs logic are a few examples of the paradoxical dualities of life.

Sir Isaac Newton succinctly translated a case of duality into scientific form. One of his Three Laws of Motion says: "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."

Even Hawaii has not been immune to dualities. In fact Hawaii is wracked to its very core by the duality of either, on one hand, pursuing "growth" or, on the other hand, maintaining "paradise."

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to be certain that Hawaii's development plans address both the State's development needs as well as those that preserve the very qualities that make paradise of Hawaii.

Hawaii's duality problem rears its ugly head when initiatives to meet economic needs collide head-on with the need to preserve Hawaii's rich cultural heritage. Which of the two is priority?

There was a tight fight some years ago between proponents of an interisland ferry and its environmentalist oppositionists. The ferry would have been a relatively inexpensive alternative to costly plane travel. The delivery of products and services from one island to another in the Hawaiian chain would have been enhanced.

Environmentalists on the other hand contended that the ferry would be dangerous to the whales from Alaska that annually pilgrimage to the warm waters of Hawaii, where they breach, frolic and most likely even mate. Afterall, Hawaii is not called the honeymoon capital of the world for nothing.

An oceanfront resort proposed to be built on the south side of the Big further illustrates the duality confronting Hawaii. The project was aborted after protesters, claiming the project dangerous to the ecosystem, won out. Resort proponents projected the resort bringing multiple economic opportunities in an area that supposedly has the highest unemployment, teen pregnancy, and domestic violence rates in the whole State.

Only a few days ago, a showdown ensued between protesters and sponsors of the Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT) to be built over a ten-year period near the summit of Mauna Kea.

Measured from its ocean-depth base, Mauna Kea rises 13,769 feet, double the base-to-peak height of Mt. Everest and is considered as the world's tallest mountain and only tropical Alpine desert.

Since 1964 when the first access road to the mountain was built, 13 telescopes funded by 11 countries have been constructed at Mauna Kea's 4,200 meter summit. Hawaii is not only a rest-and-recreation paradise; its observatory atop Mauna Kea is the largest in the world for optical. infra-red and submillimeter astronomy and consequently a Mecca to everyone interested in heavenly bodies (not the two- legged kind).

Lynne T. Waters, an official of the University of Hawaii, claimed that the economic impact of the TNT project could only increase the estimated $140 million in annual revenues generated by current astronomy-related activities on Mauna Kea.

Project opponents, however, refuse to be dazzled by the mighty dollar. They anticipate danger to the preservation of Mauna Kea's delicate ecology and  its cultural significance. For them, the summit is more than just for peeking into the universe or creating livelihood opportunities. Mauna Kea is sacred and spiritual. There are centuries-old trails, quarries, burial sites on the mountain as well as a complex of stone shrines attributed to the worship of various Hawaiian deities. There are also  areas from where ancient Hawaiians watched the sun, moon and the stars, ironically much like the observatories do now.

 Mauna Kea is not only a volcano and the tallest mountain in Hawaii's landscape. With the controversy surrounding the use of its summit, Mauna Kea is a symbol of what is perhaps the most crucial duality confronting Hawaii's psyche today. If left unaddressed through policy, the duality will continue to erupt either into bitter conflicts or self-defeating inertia. Nothing gets done. Definitely a no-win situation.

When faced with a fork on the road  between "progress and growth" on one hand, and "paradise" on the other, Hawaii has only one choice: I say take the Aloha Way.

Aloha is not only "hello,"  "welcome," and "goodbye." From ancient Hawaiian teachings:  

"Aloha is being a part of all, and all being a part of me. When there is pain - it is my pain. When there is joy - it is also mine. I respect all that is as part of the Creator and part of me. I will not willfully harm anyone or anything. When food is needed I will take only my need and explain why it is being taken. The earth, the sky, the sea are mine to care for, to cherish and to protect. This is Hawaiian - this is Aloha!"

Mauna Kea Moonrise from  APOD. NASA. GOV
Mauna Kea Observatories from

- Ariel Murphy


  1. I think the observatories are beautiful in their own way. They are an extension of our eyes.

    1. I like your description of the observatories Mitchell Hegman. Thanks for the comment.

  2. This one is terrific, Ariel Murphy... Thank You and Aloha...I have had a long discussion with an online friend about dualities. And crossing the U.S. mainland, I ran into many similar instances of the need to preserve cultural heritage (Native American) vs. "progress". An environmental friend of mine is involved in land preservation and thought the "Crazy Horse" mountain monument was an abomination, even though it was a Native American idea. I had to see the "First Light", DVD again to remember Ed Stevens who has been involved in the "Aha Hui Ku Mauna" a group that tries to find the middle ground for the duality that exists..maybe this quote says it best..."Progress is man's ability to complicate simplicity" ~ Thor-Heyerdahl.

    1. You're absolutely right Pete. The duality between choosing heritage vs choosing "progress" is true not only for Hawaii but also across the globe. The reality is that the duality exists within ourselves and redound to thinking about what we really value most. Is First Light available in the public library?

      I love Thor Heyerdah's quote, which I think is quite paradoxical. The more man complicates simplicity and progresses in terms of enlightenment, the more he/she realizes that at the bottom of it all is what he started to begin with --simplicity. Man, in my opinion, just has to go through the process of overthinking, without which there could be no realization and enlightenment.

      Thanks for your comment Pete. As always, I appreciate the thoughts you share.