Why We Should Care About: Matariki

1 Jun

In the face of such a beautiful celebration I can’t help but feel sad. In a society where marriage & turning 21 (which means nothing but oblivion via alcohol) are the two remaining rituals (followed closely by divorce) of a bygone era which saw a measure of gratitude expressed for the privileges we now call rights, something as ethereal as Matariki can get trod underfoot.

An emptiness pervades our societies attempts at resurrecting past rituals. Like standing limp in a museum looking at artifacts long ago outdated and pretending to be impressed, we’ve lost sight of how we got here, lost respect for a ‘fine balance’ worse than that we’ve outsourced our need to care. As David Foster Wallace put it in his novel Broom of the System: we’ve forgotten how to hew. To remedy this Wallace’s mayor to his imaginary Ohio creates a black sand desert for his country men to wander within which to toil, an ‘other for Ohio’s self.’
Our self now exists without regard for the other, we no longer need to hew, no longer need to beg forbearance. This lack of need, I feel, makes us unable to truly appreciate the spoils of our mastery over nature: we’ve won the war but forgotten why we were fighting.
Having been privy to what felt like endless years of education at a tertiary level and below I’ve been pummeled with phrases like ‘cultural significance’ and ‘honouring the past.’  Having had their feet in concrete for the past hundred years these phrases are withered from no real momentum accept a desire to be seen to be trying.

Heralding the arrival of Winter, the appearance of ‘tiny eyes’ in our Southern skies, deferring to mother earth for the bounty or otherwise of our crops seems pointless when our lands are farmed by handmaidens of Fonterra tm, the animals pushed intentionally outside of their natural cycles so that we can graft more of their life onto ours and the average child has to be driven for hours to be shown where vegetables actually come from.

Please don’t mistake this for pessimism. It’s something far worse, it’s the sapling of hope. Yes we live in a culture that for the main part manipulates nature for our own ends, but we do still have our moments. And Matariki is one of them. I wish the phoenix wasn’t such a clichéd metaphor (is there anything else that rises from the ashes, Helen Clark maybe?) because though used to the point of repulsion the phoenix illustrates a valuable point: things can be restored.

A law is set to pass in Bolivia that grants Mother Nature equal rights to human beings. Maybe it’s time to take a leaf from Bolivia’s book and acknowledging this lands indigenous ritual of giving thanks. Awaiting the predawn dark to see what light might emerge from the brink, listening to the land and all her forgotten wisdom and remembering that we’re a part and not the whole of something extraordinary.
NOTE: this article/rant is currently featured in Metro magazine.

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One Response to “Why We Should Care About: Matariki”

  1. kirsty helen July 11, 2011 at 6:51 pm #

    love this. xo

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