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Read some of the narrative and insights from inside the book "INFINITE THREADS: 100 Indigenous Insights from Old Maori Manuscripts".

Read some of the Chapter narratives below, and read some of the Insights further below.

CHAPTER ONE: OUTLANDISH TERRITORY
 

THERE ARE TIMES OF WHICH WE SHALL NEVER SEE THE LIKE OF AGAIN. The world has veered into some outlandish territory where the sun bleeds red and the moon slumps in the sky and we overrun the planet, leaving footprints everywhere. We strip the earth of dignity for an imagined concept called civilisation. We strip ourselves of dignity for an imagined concept called freedom. We lurch from one episode to the next in pursuit of purpose or pleasure or liberty. Many of us live where the right to hate surpasses the right to love. And we depend on governments, corporations, and institutions for moral and spiritual leadership they do not possess.


Too many leaders exude confidence and power, but are bullies, liars, and bigots. Truth rarely comes out of the mouths of those whose incessant rants and bared teeth fill the silence. Yet, they are urged on by followers who shove megaphones into their clammy hands. Amplified voices assure us there is much to fear, shadows everywhere, we deserve more, and they will keep us safe. We wait and wait. All the while, we make them richer. They make us stupider. The insane appear to be leading the insane. And it is folly.


Oh, the fatalist will say there is nothing we can do. They will be right if enough of us choose it. You, dear reader, appear to know this. To see truth we need to keep our eyes open even when the view is appalling. To keep them shut invites the demolition of ourselves and each other. There is no other outcome. But changing people’s views must surely be one of the more difficult endeavours. All sides believe their righteousness. No force or logic or plea will change an entrenched mind and closed eyes. Whoever discovers what will, will surely change the course of history forever.


CHAPTER TWO: YOU DON’T HAVE TO CLAP
 

A MAORI, A COLONIALIST, A MISSIONARY, A SCHOLAR AND A MOKO-KAKARIKI—ALL WALKED INTO A BAR … because no great story starts with someone drinking a spicy chai latte with black tea and cinnamon. A group of rivals in a friendly establishment telling a few tentative yarns before getting to the truth could be the perfect way to diffuse tension before the real korero, discussion, begins. True, the story doesn’t start well. But, I declare, if they do not leave with their arms around each other by the close of the evening, then we are in trouble. I would like to think that after their stories are retold and resolved, they will each know inherently that none is singularly perfect, and that in reviewing their part from the perspective of another, they will recognise their whanaungatanga—kinship. I hope they will come to the firm conclusion that the only thing worth pursuing is reconciliation and restitution, and they need to work together if they are to avoid the edge of the same cliff.


And what about us? We hitch our identities to our stories. They tell us who we are and who we belong to. If someone distorts our version, we don’t like it. But of course, it is their story to tell, and even they endeavour to tell it as truthfully as they can. Still, we have, until recent times, been presented mostly with the victors’ versions of history, reinforced by schooling and popularly integrated into our perception of facts. The shelves of old libraries are full of these creaking truths. Nowadays, the defeated sometimes get to write history too. Even when lives, land and knowledge have been disrupted, the stories often remain. Telling them is how we move as a collective towards recovery after loss. It is how we restore wisdom and pride. It is what we do after the initial pain has receded—when there is room for the weary mind to share the story wider. This book is one of them.


This story may be different to those some of us have grown up with. Or it may be so familiar that some of us feel like we have come home. I will tell it from the perspective of some of my old people, of me and mine. Not always beautiful. Not always palatable. We may cower when the curtain hiding the harsh truths is yanked open—especially if it invokes something uncomfortable, something we don’t like repeated. We may prefer it be sanitised. We may prefer to change the subject, accuse the storyteller of not ‘getting over it’ and we’d rather forget it.


Let us deal with this matter.


Our discomfort serves only us. I have learnt it holds no value for the storyteller and it doesn’t change the story. Let us not behave like consumers, only gleaning what is agreeable. Let us check ourselves. Knowledge is not a right. It is a gift. Some have fought hard to keep or retrieve it. We may have to consider that we are not the primary recipients because the first beneficiaries of knowledge should be those from whom it is sourced. Sharing it first within this group is part of the healing process. During this time, we may only be a witness. After, when the source group is satisfied they are in charge of their own stories, they may extend the audience. Not being a consumer means understanding this is not a transaction, but a privilege.


This is me telling my story to you, dear reader. You are my extended audience. For a time, I have your mind and maybe your heart, and I’m keen to honour that. In the end, you will decide its value. If I may borrow the words of a lovely old codger friend, now passed, who used to say, ‘You don’t have to clap if you don’t like it’.

JUST A FEW OF THE 100 INSIGHTS …
 

 

INSIGHT 55: Nga Kaute. Numbers.
 

  1. From the beginning we are poked, prodded, and measured to satisfy a contrived mathematical measurement of us.

  2. We are someone’s calculation.

  3. Our estimated conception date (a) plus 280 gestation days (b) equals the day of our expected birth (x).

  4. So a + b = x with an acceptable relative margin of error, that is, the result of a percentage of confidence (z) times the square root of the proportion (p) times (1 - p) over the sample size (n).

  5. Yet 95 percent of us were not born on the date known as x.

  6. Once our foetal form becomes quantifiable, our dimensions are sized up and jotted down for comparative analysis.

  7. Our appendages are counted—five of this, five of that, one of those, so many heart beats per minute, te mea, te mea, etcetera, etcetera.

  8. From the comfort of our tiny womb universe through to and beyond our expulsion into daylight, we are carefully socialised.

  9. Soon, we are an obedient little soldier shuffling through life according to the time pieces and cartographic representations of modern society. The numbers.

  10. We are encouraged to obsess over our salary, our bank account, our lateness, our punctuality, our age, our weight, the circumference of our flexed bicep or dainty waist, the latitudes and longitudes, the arrivals and the returns, the whens and wheres.

  11. We are so fixated on these numbers, we fail to notice the ebb and flow, the wax and wane, the dawn and dusk, and the slow trajectory of orbs through the night sky.

  12. When we are asked for our numbers upon meeting a stranger, we may recognise another of our fellow soldiers, for they are everywhere.

  13. Our worth is measured not by numbers, but by Te Hononga, Connections, Relationships.

  14. When our people greet you with, Tena koe, they are saying, there you are in my presence, and I in yours. I respectfully acknowledge you because you and I both occupy Te Ira Tangata, the Infinite Genetic Thread.

  15. When our people ask, No hea koe?, Where are you from?, they wish to identify your common genealogical connections through ‘place’.

  16. They ask, who is the mountain you love so well, so I may, perchance, ascertain my mountain’s connection to yours?

  17. Oh, you are of the sea people, or the bush people or the river or snow people.

  18. Where are the remnants of your Ancestors’ bones?

  19. From where does your blood flow, so I may know if my blood flows alongside?

  20. When they ask your name—Ko wai to ingoa?—they wish to establish the finer points of your ancestral connections.

  21. They inquire not only after your name, but those of your Grandparents, so they may discover the genealogical convergences between you, however distant.

  22. Why do our people do this?

  23. Because they hope to finally, and in all knowingness, share the breath of life with you—as Kin.

 


INSIGHT 65: Aroha Whakaingoingo. Romantic Love.

 

  1. Let me lay down the enchanting words of romance once spoken by our old people—musings for your heart.

  2. No doubt, I will fail to convey the aspirations of the ancient Lover due in part to the inadequacy of the language we now converse in.

  3. Still. Humour me.

  4. For in this ancient time, love is not brought upon the scented petals of freshly plucked flowers, nor is it concealed inside ornamented boxes loosely ribboned and bowed.

  5. It drifts upon the gentle breeze and passes above the bubbling waters of the Wellspring-of-Tender-Intent.

  6. What is this delicate wind that touches your skin?

  7. Perhaps you do not yearn for my love, and yet …

  8. There, the breeze settles softly by your side.

  9. A companion to our repose.

  10. It is Effervescence from Love’s Wellspring.

  11. Pupu ake-a-wai to aroha.


 

INSIGHT 77: He Tangata Ware Noa. A Nobody.
 

  1. We notice that those who are closest to us, fail to accept us.

  2. We receive no encouragement, no words of support, and no affirmations.

  3. It is as if we are Tangata ware noa, a Nobody.

  4. We try harder to be noticed. We over-compensate.

  5. Our behaviour is less than authentic because we do things to impress others or to avoid jealousy.

  6. In one moment, we hide our achievements for fear of criticism, and in the next, we display them in the hope of acceptance.

  7. We want to be important, or at least, important enough.

  8. We are confused and miserable.

  9. We struggle against the universe.

  10. We have not realised we have made it impossible for ourselves.

  11. Kia eke koe ki runga kite puna o Tinirau!

  12. We may as well be sitting upon the blowhole of the whale!

  13. We have created weakness because we grip so steadfastly to our desire for praise and endorsement.

  14. Now, it has become easy to nudge us off the slippery back of the whale.

  15. What lies at the heart of it?

  16. Our need to be loved? you offer.

  17. I say it is our sense of self-importance and it is leading us down a wretched path!

  18. It is time to let go.

  19. Know our purpose, the reason we are here—the thing that ignites our heart.

  20. Know it. Live it. Make every task relevant to it.

  21. When we take on a new task, ask whether we are doing it because we want approval.

  22. Discard the tasks motivated by people-pleasing.

  23. We do not need their admiration, acceptance or validation.

  24. Our path must be free from the desire for glory, acknowledgement, and confirmation.

  25. Let our actions be unnoticed.

  26. Let us set ourselves free from this unnecessary pain, so we can get on with meeting our full capability.

  27. Let us serve our purpose meticulously.

  28. Ae, kia eke koe ki runga kite puna o Tinirau!Ae,

  29. It is enough that we ride upon the back of a magnificent whale on the great ocean of Tangaroa.

  30. Who cares whether there is anyone on the shore to see?


INSIGHT 80: Whakarangatira. Ennoble.

 

  1. When her loved one is taken, she has no wish to compare.

  2. Yet, she thinks of the rare and lustrous plume of the exquisite Huia, the Heteralocha Acutirostris.

  3. That feather will no longer adorn her head.

  4. She thinks of the noble flight of Toroa, the Albatross, who will go to the northern-most tip of this land, to Te Rerenga Wairua.

  5. It is where the two oceans meet and where those who have passed go to take their final leap into the next realm.

  6. Here, her beloved will enter the numinous waters and navigate his passage back to the ancient homelands.

  7. She laments.

  8. Ehara ite taane, he huia tu ra, he toroa whakakopa ra runga onga hiwi. Taku manu korero, tiu ana ki te muri e.

  9. You were more than a husband. You were my foremost huia-plume, an albatross in flight o’er the high ridges. Alas, my renowned bird flies to the farthest north.

 

INSIGHT 84: Tai-Tama-Wahine. Tai-Tama-Taane. Female and Male Tides.

 

  1. Sisters, look to the edge of the tide, to the enduring ebb and flow of Tai-Tama-Wahine, the Feminine East Tides, and Tai-Tama-Taane, the Masculine West Tides.

  2. There are still those of us who believe respect for our menfolk requires our silence. Our passivity. Our pleasing.

  3. We give him the voice and the decisions. We prop him up. We repair the damage. We apologise for him. We defend him. We flatter him.

  4. In all these acts, we are misled.

  5. He does not need any of this from us.

  6. When Tai-Tama-Wahine does not fully join the tidal cycle, Tai-Tama-Taane rolls in unfettered, wild, and deluded.

  7. We wait, believing the thrashing waters will eventually produce some benefit for all.

  8. We will be waiting forever.

  9. Tane ma, men, you have encroached upon the beach.

  10. Prepare to roll your Tides back, and join the cycle.

  11. Wahine ma, women, it is time to bring forth your Tides to the shore.

INSIGHT 91: Nga Mea Maumaharatanga. Monuments.

 

  1. We wonder why our Tupuna, Ancestors, refrained from building large spiritual monuments.

  2. They did not build pillars, pulpits, statues or golden shrines.

  3. At most, they assembled modest focal points, but more often there was no trace.

  4. Why do we feel compelled to build grand monuments in the name of our beliefs—upsized indulgence on the landscape?

  5. Surely, there is no human-made monument that can surpass those already adorning the body of Papa-tua-nuku, Earth Mother.

  6. Are not the mountains, oceans, and rivers monument enough?

  7. The outward expression of the old people’s spirituality was not represented by grand things.

  8. Those surely are evidence of faiths that have become outwardly concerned with appearances.

  9. Symbols of materialism, obsession, importance, control, oppression, and contradiction.

  10. And below their beautifully crafted walls, the suffering lie in the gutters.

 

Also, you can download the contents including a list of headings for each of the 100 insights.

 

© 2020 Mariko B. Ryan

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