Sometimes it feels like being human, in real life, is bizarre, it’s so much more complicated than a book or a movie… there are so many factors and choices, so much information and debate and “noise” that sounds like a debate.
I remember going to Body Works, an exhibit on plastinated human corpses to learn about the body when I was planning to go to medical school, it was quite interesting, I went to the German exhibit, I returned to a Chinese exhibit and then I returned again to the German exhibit with my daughter. The first time I noticed how beautiful the blood vessels are, the second time I noticed how detached we (who we really are) are from our bodies, the third time I noticed how damaging stress is for us. The exhibit had been redesigned to show the causes of health problems, cigarettes cause black lungs, sugar causes obesity and diabetes, but excessive choices (more than 6) cause some stress which then causes inflammation and heart damage. It’s interesting and terrifying because we have so many choices all the time. I have felt that burden as a shopper, as a learner, as a person since the internet started having so many more options. I love the internet, I will continue to use it, I’m grateful for the free educational materials, for the inspiring people I meet there, for the ability to share my thoughts, writings or art with the world from my home, but there is also a huge mental drain. I could be doing thousands of things each day, I study a language for less than 10 minutes, but it could be anything, math, physics, coding, anything, there is so much that it is daunting. Maybe not everyone is as mentally printer jammed as I am, but most people are affected to some extent by the mental overload that is unhealthy for the body causing inflammation to the body damaging the cardiovascular system over time leading to increases of stroke and heart attacks.
I read Rachel Macy Stafford’s post and a few things stuck out to me as the reason I’m starting to celebrate Kwanzaa this year:
Living fully means letting your heart lead, even when the world tries to dissuade you and derail you.
It means finding your voice, even when you feel unheard.
It means facing painful truths, even when it would be easier to push them away.
It means showing up, even when you don’t feel ready or equipped.
It means reaching for connection, even when your hands shake.
It means forgiving yourself, even when you don’t feel worthy.
It means tuning into the small, still voice of belief, even when doubt is loud and obnoxious.
-Rachel Macy Stafford
Kwanzaa is going to be a celebration of choosing to live fully as much as I can, and a recommitment to my life improvement system.
The first holiday I minorly tweaked was Holloween, I started munching mini carrots while trick or treating with my kids. The first holiday I radically tweaked was “Independence Day” it became “Slugpendence Day” the day I stop going out to handpick parasite ridden slugs off our property in the worst infestation in the country (Puna East Hawaii) for two weeks. Kwanzaa is the third holiday that I claim for myself (with no disrespect to how other people celebrate it).
I’m now in the process of tying together my current values with the traditional values of each day for Kwanzaa (each of seven days has its own value) and also with one of the above sentiments from Rachel Stafford because she always helps me connect to my heart.
That way like the Hawaiian canoe voyage connecting Hawaii, back to Tahiti the return voyage of the ancient migration that founded Hawaii, I am connecting myself to Africa the ancestral home to all humans, my heart and my own mind/identity.
December 26th, the first day of Kwanzaa, the central black candle is lit, it represents the African race, but to me, it represents more, solidarity of humankind and living beings in general. The traditional value is “Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.” For me it’s about being one as a human race, to the extent that it is sensical to do so, not by eliminating real differences or foods or customs, but by finding emotional, mental and spiritual common ground, it’s about meditating about the face of the mother of all mothers today, and how her lineage led to my family over time, imagine what she was like. That will be the day I think of “Antifragility” when I think of how the human race has come as far as it has, although there is so much missing history we have done a lot that we have traveled the globe and can communicate in an instant from anywhere, I think the next step is to stop killing each other in war, homicide, even suicide (with exceptions for severe medical conditions). I’d like to think of all of us humans a unified, if only in my mind and only the first day of Kwanzaa, and think about the “antifragility” (growth from chaos and stress) that our vast tribe has undergone to reach today, although we are imperfect we are strong and adaptable. I will meditate on Rachel’s statement: “Living fully means… reaching for connection, even when your hands shake.” If we all do that, someday we will be a world and collection of nations and collections of souls at peace. I will also reflect on Maya Angelou’s: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
December 27th, the second day of Kwanzaa, the leftmost red candle of challenge is lit for “Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.” To me, that is about “Transformation” from what we truly were to what we want to be. Shaun T writes in his book “T Is for Transformation,” that we are like relay racers handing a baton from ourselves to ourselves. I like the metaphor. It will be a day to thank my 2019 self and all my past selves for doing what we could and handing the baton off to my 2020 self to reach for some new goals and dreams. I will meditate on Rachel’s statement: “Living fully means… letting your heart lead, even when the world tries to dissuade you and derail you.” I will think about making goals with my heart this year for the first time and think about how to name my blog, which is untitled. I will also reflect on Maya Angelou’s: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.“
December 28th, the third day of Kwanzaa, the second red candle of challenge is lit for “Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together.” To me this resonates with the value of Kindness, the community I feel like I belong to is the writing community, I have received a lot of kindness and help this year, but I still feel like too much of a novice to offer much help back, I hope someday I will be able to create something useful to this community who has helped and supported me so much emotionally this year. I will meditate on Rachel’s statement: “Living fully means… It means finding your voice, even when you feel unheard.” I will also reflect on Maya Angelou’s: “Feeling seen and heard enables human beings to reach their highest potential.“
December 29th, the fourth day of Kwanzaa, the third red candle of challenge is lit for “Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.” That resonates with my value of “Action” but I don’t understand how yet. I will meditate on Rachel’s statement: “Living fully means… showing up, even when you don’t feel ready or equipped,” and Maya Angelou’s: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.“
December 30th, the fifth day of Kwanzaa, the first green candle of hope is lit for “Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.” I’m going to see if my value of “Awareness” works with this day, but I feel like it’s a personal struggle to really know what my purpose is. I will meditate on Rachel’s statement: “Living fully means… forgiving yourself, even when you don’t feel worthy,” if I do find a purpose there is the pain I haven’t lived by one and if I don’t the pain of uncertainty. I will also reflect on Maya Angelou’s: “We need much less than we think we need.“
December 31st, the sixth day of Kwanzaa, the second green candle of hope is lit for “Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it. I will try to connect to my value of “Prudence” born from pain. I will meditate on Rachel’s statement: “Living fully means… facing painful truths, even when it would be easier to push them away, and I will also reflect on a quote I can’t attribute “When you fully accept who you are the world doesn’t bother you anymore.“
January 1st, the seventh day of Kwanzaa, the last green candle of hope is lit for “Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.” I will try to connect my value of “Assertiveness” with the last day of Kwanzaa, which includes the meditations “Who am I?” “Am I really who I say I am?” “Am I doing all I could be?” I will also think about Rachel’s statement: “Living fully means… tuning into the small, still voice of belief, even when doubt is loud and obnoxious.“
Above I mentioned the canoe (named Hōkūleʻa), in 1976 she sailed to Tahiti with exclusively Polynesian navigation, and also “served as a vehicle for the cultural revitalization of Hawaiians and other Polynesians” it began kind of a cultural renaissance first by going home to Tahiti, then by “closing the triangle” sailing the three boundaries of Polynesia (New Zeland, Hawaii and Easter Island) and then going on to sail the world circumnavigating the globe in three years. In 2015 this small canoe from Hawaii made it to South Africa and for some reason, it was really touching to see the two cultures meet and made me feel really hopeful for humanity that we can live in harmony together without losing anything important of ourselves.
May your heart find joy, peace and love this winter. 🕊️