Te Reo Maori Tino Ataahua
(The Most Beautiful Maori language)
Whakatauki (Maori Proverb)
Ko taku teo reo taku ohooho, ko taku teo taku mapihi mauria
My language is my awakening, my language is the window to my soul.
This year, 2019, I am privileged to attend lessons in the Maori language at our local community school. The lessons are provided in most kind and caring ways by the staff of Te Wananga O Aotearoa.
Here are some of my first reflections on the beauty and insights residing in te reo Maori.
He aha he ataahua? What is beauty?
It is my experience that beauty is most manifest in moments of great connection, harmony and compassion with all.
In such moments we are better able to transcend paradox and be most truthful in and of the universal potential. When this is so, our life, including our language, most reflects and sustains the universal flows and balances that enable humankind.
Salvation in wonder and inquiry
Pictures can transcend paradox and communicate this beauty in ways words and our thought process never can. In August 2017 I survived open-heart surgery and thus embarked on a cartoon journey searching for the spirit of wonder and inquiry I enjoyed as a 12-year-old. I came to realize it is only this precious state of being that can save humankind from self-destruction.
These initial reflections on the beauty of te reo Maori are based on the draft cartoons that arose in that journey of exploration.
Whakatauki (Maori Proverb) The power of language
Existence being paradox, any form in the continuous universal transformation is simultaneously informs all other forms even as it is informed by all other forms.
This means our every thought, spoken or unspoken, is a force acting on and reacting to the universal forces.
In other words, all information, including our language, is physical. Being physical, our use of language tends to sustain us to the extent it is in accord with the great principles of physics.
Our modern English language tends to be dualistic, tending to trap us in paradox. It is a profound denial of the principles of energy and thus our use of it tends to generate vast waste, pollution, ugliness and misery.
This proverb of the Maori language beautifully embraces and transcends the paradox of language. It speaks of the awakening and the revelation of our state of being in the same breath, thereby reminding us we are our language. Thus our words and behaviour are more in harmony with all and tend to conserve the flows and balances that sustain humankind.
“Mauria” does not translate directly as “soul” or “spirit”. It more refers to our experience of “life force”.
“Mapihi” does not translate directly as “window” (matapihi). Rather it may suggest our language is a way of knowing the truth or state of our mauri.
Kaiako Student Teacher
Existence being paradox, learning is teaching and teaching is learning, the teacher the student, the student the teacher, the answer the question, the question the answer. It is the true spirit of inquiry that sustains humankind and this spirit most flourishes in our children. This is because all children are born into compassion, a considerable state of science. The ego has not yet developed the sophisticated self-deceits and ingenious rationales of denial that come with adulthood.
On balance our English education system is ego-driven, the language of its framework being hostile to compassion. The student, especially the child, is viewed as an “empty vessel” to be filled by the “know all” teacher. The prime measure of the system’s success is its measure of the skill of its graduates at regurgitating knowledge. This system is without care of how knowledge is used – it has no true measure of the sustainability of the language and lifestyle of the graduate.
“Ako” in te reo Maori is more holistic in that “kaiako” transcends the teacher-student paradox. This is reflected in the belief the child comes rich in the wisdom of the ancestors, wisdom that informs our language and lifestyle so these conserve the flows and balances of Earth that will sustain generations yet unborn.
Ia – Him Her He She
Existence being paradox, both the human ego and compassion arise in any moment of self-awareness. The force, which is the ego, thrives in division and exclusiveness whereas the force, which is compassion, flourishes in connection and inclusiveness.
We all live the great paradox: the invariable (constant) universal change (transformation).
So it is the sexual nature of us all is about the begetting and the stilling, the creation and the extinction, the fusion and the separation of the elements of all forms of life.
The knowing of this physics is in the DNA of every cell and it has been so since the first cell arose perhaps 3.8 billion years ago on Earth. This information has sustained life forms with all their diversity through eons of climate change. It means we human beings are asexual even as we are sexual. Each of us is male even as we are female. We are one and the same even as we are unique and different.
The language of modern English is more ego-driven and less compassionate. This is reflected in the fact it has no common pronoun that transcends the paradox of our masculinity and femininity. English culture lives and generates a divisive, dualistic world of him or her, his or hers, he or she.
The language of Maori is less ego-driven and retains greater compassion. This is reflected in the fact it has a very common pronoun that transcends the paradox of our masculinity and femininity. The pronoun is “ia”. Thus the language of Maori better reflects and generates our greater humanity. It is more holistic. It is better able to reveal and express the great wonder and beauty of all life in all its diversity.
Tangata – to be a human being, person, individual
Taangata – people, persons, human beings
Existence being paradox, our use of a word simultaneously reflects and generates our state of being.
Existence being paradox, all forms in the universal transformation are the same even as each form is unique. We live a dance between the unique and the universal.
Without compassion, the ego tends to have us confuse and conflate the universal and the unique in unhelpful ways. Greed and arrogance prevail so that our behaviour tends to generate misery rather than harmony.
The origins of the word “man” are unclear. It may have arisen from profound myths of the progenitor of the human species such as the Germanic god Mannus and the Indian god Manu with the word “human” reminding us we are earth dwellers -we arise from and return to humus, the soil, the earth.
Until the 19th Century “man” was a relatively compassionate word in that it was inclusive of all human beings. Victorian England adopted and adapted Darwin’s notion of evolution into the belief that “Man” is the pinnacle of evolution, some even believing “Man” is above and beyond the principles of physics. Then, in the 20th Century, a class of English male “homo sapiens” appropriated the potent word “man” as their exclusive description.
Similarly they transformed “homo” into word of abuse for a minority of males.
Similarly they conflated “female” with “male” and “woman” with “man” in ways that derogate the femina of our species on a global scale.
This divisiveness and derogation is consistent with a more extreme ego-driven use of the English language.
The language of Maori evidences a far greater degree of compassion in that it has words to describe the unique elements of a human being while being careful to conserve the inclusiveness of words that express our universal nature. In particular it has two words – spoken as “tangata” and “taangata” – to express our common humanity. Spoken “tangata” refers to the individual state, which is a human being while the spoken “taangata” (‘a’ with a macron) refers to people, persons and the universal state, which is human beings. Thus again the language of Maori is more holistic and better able to express in our daily lives the great wonder and beauty of life in all its diversity. Any attempt to translate “tangata” into modern English destroys its vitality.
Aroha – Compassion
Existence being paradox, the ego (the “I”) and the compassion of a human being are of each other even as they are unalike, different. Both these complementary states of being arise in every human in any moment of self-awareness.
Born of this division of our awareness, the ego lives in profound denial of the universal reality, which is continuous transformation. This because the ego abhors any reminder of the finite nature of all forms, including the fact our human form is mortal.
We experience this denial of the ego as fear, greed and envy, as energy (time) deprivation and arrogance, as cruelty and exclusiveness, as dishonesty and delusions.
Compassion, by contrast, connects and reminds us in the universal reality, the vast, ever-changing, bounteous potential. We experience the acceptance of change that is inherent in compassion as honesty and trust, as sharing and inclusiveness, as generosity of energy (time) and reflection, as enquiry and wonder, and as humility and forgiveness.
Aroha is commonly translated as “love”. Modern English, especially as spoken in our ego-driven media, tends to equate love with sexual acts, “romantic” relationships and interpersonal attachments. “Love” is marketed as a commodity, countless singers of “love songs” blame love for their pain and the prevailing phrase is “I (the ego) love you.” So we “fall in love”, have “love affaires”, have a “love life”, get a “love life”, have “love seats”, write “love letters”, “make love” and have “love handles”. Love is typically symbolized as a heart.
Aroha is perhaps better understood as compassion, the complement of the ego. If “aro” refers to the seat of our emotions and “ha” to the breath, then aroha indeed reminds us in wondrous potential beyond words. The breath is perhaps our most vital and intimate experience of the universal life force. Our every breath connects us to all and refreshes us in the physics of giving and receiving. Aroha is the enjoyment of all the qualities of compassion with all our senses. It has the power to balance the forces of the ego. In so doing it enables us to transcend the paradox of the human condition and be sustained in the universal potential in beautiful ways. He ataahua. He hohonu.
Wa – Time Space
Existence being paradox, the measured and the measure are of each other. Perhaps our most vital measure is P = E/T where E (energy) is the universal potential, P (power) is the rate it is manifest and T (time) is our measure.
In New Zealand our “Western” educators are content if we can regurgitate this equation. They rarely teach us how we employ this equation at some level of our being with every heartbeat, every breath, standing up, sitting down, lifting a child, crossing the road, driving a car and all our other daily actions. It is critical to our survival – our flawed calculation of time and energy can maim and destroy us. Truly time is of the essence.
However we live a great paradox: each of us is vitally intimate with both time and energy; no one knows exactly what either time or energy is.
Over the past four or so centuries our European culture has become increasingly ego-driven and trapped in this paradox. This is reflected in the fact that time has been divorced from space and become a one-dimensional experience. So European behaviour tends to be more and more delusional and destructive.
During the past century European students of astrophysics and quantum physics (Einstein et al) have attempted to confront and correct this denial of reality by fusing three dimensions of space and one dimension of time into a four dimensional continuum, which they call “Space-time”. However a consensus persists in European culture that such ideas are irrelevant to our daily decisions and behaviour. Consequently the calculations and insights of quantum physics are used in perilous ways.
“Wa” means time, space, period, area, interval, region and season. This te reo Maori speaks of multi-dimensions and reminds us of their fundamental unity. The word “Wa” beautifully transcends both this great paradox of measure and the limitations of the ego. And in as much as it does so, it reminds us in harmony with all the flows and balances of the universe that sustain humankind.
Wahine – Woman
Existence being paradox, any form is informed by all even as it informs all. Anything, including a human being, is a temporary balance or equilibrium or homeostasis of information amidst the continuous universal transformation.
In practical terms, this means our potential to survive, whether as an individual or as a species, is very dependent on our capacity to experience a true sense of wa (space/time). It is our ability to enjoy a real sense of place that enables us to better conserve the universal flows and balances that sustain he tangata (the people).
Their language and history indicate Maori were finely attuned to the stellar, solar, lunar, tidal, winds and other flows of Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa (the great Pacific ocean). Listen, for instance, to The Maramataka with Rereata Makiha in which Rereata discusses how the Māori Lunar Calendar or the Maramataka outlines the different phases of the moon and is a guide to the optimal days for fishing, planting or harvesting food. He also discusses the different names of the moon phases and how these also relate to human behaviours.
This potent, beautiful awareness of family, land, water, air and the stars, this sophisticated sense of wa is reflected in a profound respect for the role of women in our lives, as can be seen in the Maori description of them as “wahine” while younger women and girls are described as “hine”. The menstrual cycle with its periodic flows of red blood forms a potent reminder we are elements of the universal flux of carbon, iron and oxygen from supernovae – the cycles of wahine reflect and connect us to the cycles of our sun, our moon and our planet Earth to its core. We abuse their inherent wisdom at our peril.
Amended 23 September 2019