cultural myths and misery

John Schinnerer eco_living at
Tue Dec 11 03:20:42 EST 2001


> You appear to use this for each of your posts
> without fail, so I'm curious, do you use it as
> anything more than a cursory greeting? How does
> it translate?

I use it as a salutation.  I spent about four liminal, learning,
deep-work-starting years of my life on Hawai'i Island, where I now have
a bit of land where I spend part of the year (hopefully...).  I like
the sound of the language, the rhythm and pattern of it, the
chicken-skin-raising power of it in the voice of a master chanter, and
would like to learn to speak considerably more of it someday than the
handful of words I currently know.  

I like 'aloha' as a salutation because it carries many meanings (hello,
goodby, regards, until we meet again, compassion, affection, love) -
Hawaiian is a highly context-sensitive and metaphorical language (at
least that's how Western linguists describe it) - and because it links
me with Hawai'i, a place that I have experienced and continue to
experience significant heartfelt relatings with, despite seemingly
overwhelming 'problems in paradise' and the fact that I am a caucasian
of Northern European descent with no apparent genealogical affinity to
the Islands whatsoever.


> I would say that philosophy in general deals with
> matters that cannot be addresses in a
> quantitative or empirical fashion. As I posted in
> a previous thread, it deals with questions like,
> * Why is there something rather than nothing?
> * What is the point of life?
> * What is the good life?
> * What is beauty?
> Even if not answerable in any ultimate sense,
> they do have practical value--far from mere head
> games, they deal with the big questions upon
> which probably everyone dwells for longer or
> shorter periods at some point in their life, and
> which can inform some major life choices.

And I ask - "Who chose these questions?  Who has taught me (us, you)
that they are 'big'?  What are the implicits in these questions and
what are consequences of those implicits?  What if these are the
'wrong' questions?  What others might I ask?"

Perhaps there *is* nothing, rather than something.  How would we know? 
Quantum physicists are reaching 'explanations' already reached by
ancient 'philosophies'.

Perhaps "life" has no "point," and does not need one imposed on it;
perhaps it even "works" better that way.
Bill Moyers (in the taped conversation series he did with Joseph
Campbell) asks Campbell what he sees the collective mythologies of the
world's cultures telling us in answer to the so-called timeless
question of "the meaning of life."  
Campbell replies that he thinks what is important and worthwhile is not
"the meaning of life" but rather "the experience of living."
This was, and still is, one of the most profound insights I've received
in my life thus far.

What if all life is the good life?

What if beauty just is?

So when I refer to 'head games,' I mean living in the past or future or
somewhere other than here and now, present moment.  I don't see it as
'bad' or 'wrong', I just see it as a choice that I am less inclined to
make than I used to be.

John Schinnerer, MA
- Eco-Living -
Cultural & Ecological Designing
Food - Shelter - Community
john at

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