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June 29, 2011

Created Aug 15, 2011 - Memories of a trip to Kalaupapa, Molokai

"I Am a Leper, Too"

Tearful dream leads to tearful story, but also hopeful outlook through "global commons" project

FROM HAIKU, MAUI

Memories of a trip to Kalaupapa, Molokai

"I Am a Leper, Too"

Tearful dream leads to tearful story, but also hopeful outlook through "global commons" project

The story that follows may read like a work of fiction.  You decide if it is.  The tears were real, both then and now... 

HAIKU, Maui, Aug 15, 2011 - Take a good look at that face of a leper in the above shot. That's the kind of a face I kissed last night.  We both cried afterward. [crying again now... had to take a break to blow my nose before continuing]

FIRST STORY

I am on board a large schooner with a group of men, women and children.  The year is 1879.  I am 23.  I love sailing.  Which is why I signed up for this job as a deck hand on a schooner.  But I just never expected to be hauling lepers like cargo to their colony on Molokai.

I look across the deck and see an old man, his face distorted by the disease. He is in rags. Probably doesn't have a family anymore.  Nobody to shed a tear when they took him away and boarded him like cattle upon this wretched vessel an hour ago in Lahaina. 

Suddenly, I see myself walking across the deck.  I don't know what's come over me.  I feel as if I am in two places at once... I am both the young blonde haole walking across the deck and a camera suspended on a mast recording the scene from above.

I reach for the old man and give him a hug.  Then I kiss him on the cheek.  "I am a leper, too," I say even though I know am not.  He looks at me in stunned surprise.  Tears well up in his bloodshot eyes distended by the disease.  As they roll down his cheeks I feel mine doing the same. 

That's when I wake up.  I look at the clock.  It is 3:20AM.  Aug 15, 2011. I touch my face with a finger.  The tears are still on my cheeks.  They are real, not just a part of the dream.  I have never experienced real tears in dreamtime before.

SECOND STORY

I am on board a large schooner with a group of men, women and children.  The year is 1879.  I am 23.  Born and raised on Maui, I had been forcibly taken away from my family homestead and put into a temporary camp for lepers near Lahaina.  Earlier today, we were boarded like cattle into the bowels of this ship.  Now we are on our way to Molokai.  The channel between Maui and Molokai is rough.  But not today. The seas are calm.  Wish I could say the same thing about what I am feeling in my chest.  Torrents  of emotions are bobbing up and down and crashing against the walls of my heart like giant waves breaking against the pali cliffs.  "I will never see my family again," I keep thinking.

Then I look across the deck and see an old man, his face distorted by the disease. He is in rags. Probably doesn't have a family anymore.  Nobody to shed a tear when they took him away as my mother did when a government official and two policemen knocked on our door a few months ago.  "Sorry, Madam, we're just doing our job," they told my mother who tried to hold on to my hand. "It's the law."  It was the law that King Kamehameha V passed in 1865 as an "Act to Prevent the Spread of Leprosy." 

I reach for the old man and give him a hug.  Then I kiss him on the cheek.  "I am a leper, too," I whisper conspiratorially, as if that's the most shameful thing that happened to us.  He looks at me in stunned surprise.  Tears well up in his bloodshot eyes distorted by the disease.  As they roll down his cheeks I feel mine doing the same. 

That's when I wake up.  I look at the clock.  It is 3:20AM.  Aug 15, 2011. I touch my face with a finger.  The tears are still on my cheeks.  They are real, not just a part of the dream.   I have never experienced real tears in dreamtime before.

INTRODUCTION

Okay, so we are now back at the Rainbow Shower in Maui.  The dream I described above was very real.  So much so, that tears kept reminding me all through the morning of just how real this memory was, as I did research on the life of the lepers in Molokai in preparation for writing this story.  Actually, I have been preparing for this story ever since I first landed at Kapalua airport in Maui 25 years ago with my then 8-year old daughter. We faced Molokai from the condo we rented at the resort there.  We watched the whales frolic and shoot up their beautiful white geysers every evening before dinner.  I just didn't know it till now. 

I was also being prepared for this story when Elizabeth and I visited the Royal Iolani Palace in May of this year. That's when I learned of the devastating effect the White Man's arrival has had on the indigenous population of these beautiful islands. [tearing up again].  I urge you to read that story.  For, it will show you that one does not need to wage war with spears and guns in order to decimate an entire race.  We, the white people, did it even more effectively with the germs and viruses we introduced into this pristine environment.  As a result, the Native Hawaiians today represent less than 10% of the archipelago's population. [tearing up again].

I was also being prepared for this story when I was also guided, via a friend from Sedona, Arizona, to read a heart-wrenching book "Molokai" by Alan Brennert.  I had had the book for almost a year before I actually read it last March.  When I passed it on to Elizabeth, she told me that she cried her way through it.  If you click here you can find out more about it. 

I was also being prepared for this story when I contacted Elizabeth's Hula Kumu (spiritual teacher) after returning home from the Big Island.  Mahealani turns out to be a descendant of the Hawaiian royal family who has dedicated her life to restoring to, what's left of her nation, their sovereignty, dignity and the way of life (you'll get a chance to learn more about that later in the story).  "Welcome back," is how she greeted me when we first met.  Like a returning member of her family.  Yet we had never seen each other before, not in this lifetime anyway. A blonde Hawaiian... something to behold, right?

The week before last, when I tried to describe to my Teacher the project I have been working on with Mahealani, my voice cracked, tears welled up, and I had to pause to regain composure before continuing.  "Where do such powerful emotions come from?", I have been wondering.  It seems every time the subject of Native Hawaiians' history comes up, I get choked up.

And now I know.  Last night, my guides decided to wake me up and show me a scene from my past Hawaiian lifetime.  I kissed a leper and told him I was one, too.  It did not matter whether or not I was.  When one of us suffers, all of us suffer.

When I eventually rose from bed around 5:30AM this morning, uncharacteristically early for me, I heard a clear message... "now write your story." 

And they also gave me a universal theme.  "No man is an island" (John Donne).  "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (Hemingway). And... John F. Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner"-speech, delivered before a crowd of 450,000 in Berlin on June 26, 1963, which  epitomized it:

Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was civis Romanus sum ["I am a Roman citizen"]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is "Ich bin ein Berliner!"... All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein Berliner!" ["I am a Berliner"]

Well, looking in hindsight, I am not sure that there is much to be proud of as a Roman citizen 2000 years ago.  I should know, having been a Roman Emperor at the peak of its power [see Constantine's Trail of Tears (Aug 9);  Constantine: First Christian to Rule with Sword (July 31)].  But I can certainly relate to the sentiment of solidarity with the oppressed people which Kennedy was trying to convey.

In preparation for this story, I was also guided this morning to a story from the Bible I was unaware of  till now (Jesus Heals the Leper – Mark 1:40-45). Here's a synopsis:

THE LEPER

  • Rejected by family, friends, community
  • Outcast from the community and city
  • No one would have touched him for days. If anyone touches him, he will also become unclean.
  • Leprosy is not something, you can romanticize. It is one of the most hated and rejected diseases. (Check out Jesus healing the Disabled Man at Bethesda)
  • He would need physical, social, spiritual healing.
  • His self-esteem would have been lost.
  • According to Moses’ Law, the leper has to pass through at least 14 days of ‘cleansing’ process before he can enter the city and see Jesus.

JESUS OF NAZARETH

  • He was moved by pity, filled with compassion.
  • He stretched out his hands and touched him! People around him would have been shocked to see that!
  • “How can he touch him? He would also be ‘unclean’.” Some might have whispered!
  • There is a reverse phenomenon here, Jesus’ touch can cleanse the ‘unclean’.
Make that LOVE can cleanse the "unclean" and heal the wounded.  Count the Native Hawaiian people, including the lepers among them, among the wounded.  I think that was the message my guides wanted to give to me and have me relay onto the reader of these lines.  That is why they moved me to kiss the leper and tell him, "I am a leper, too."

TOWARD HAWAII AS PART OF "GLOBAL COMMONS"

I wrote two versions of the dream story because I am not sure if I was the perpetrator or the victim.  In the end, does it really matter? The only difference between a slave driver and a slave is that the slave driver suffers later. And more.  Because he has to come back in another lifetime and keep coming back until he has paid his karmic debt, maybe by being a slave himself.

What I do know for sure is that I LOVE the Native Hawaiian people.  I do feel their pain.  I do feel a tremendous sense of remorse for what White Man has done to them.  [crying again now...] Whether I was the perpetrator or the victim in the past makes no difference now.  What matters is that the empathy is driving me to try to serve the indigenous people here as I did with the Inca in Peru, and to try to make it up to them in this lifetime. Anybody care to join me?

To learn more about how we are doing it within this "global commons"-type project, check out this video Mahealani and some of her associates in the Hawaii-North Pole Trust project have made.  I helped them by editing the films last weekend, and posting it on Youtube, just in time for a gathering of some 50 Native American tribes in the mainland whose support and blessings we also elicited:

North Pole Hawaii Trust Message for Anishinabe Nation (Aug 5, 2011) 

 

Like me, you may not have any vivid memories of the wrongs the western man committed against the indigenous people around the world.  And like me, you might feel some measure of responsibility for it.  Not because you're white; you may not be. Not because you're western, you may not be.  Because you are HUMAN.  And when one of us suffers, all of us suffer. That is why you may want to help restore the indigenous people's birthright to them - a pristine environment to which they used to be so deeply connected.  For, in the end, if we go far enough back in our history, we are all indigenous people.

HISTORY & MORAL LESSONS

Leprosy was a disease brought to Hawaii by foreign settlers.  The first documented case of leprosy in Hawaii occurred in 1835.  The disease spread like wildfire among the native people as the Hawaiians had no resistance to it.  By 1865, there were 2,764 cases of it.  This led to the passing of the law in 1865 called "Act to Prevent the Spread of Leprosy." 

And for those of you who are not familiar with the history of the leper colony in Kalaupapa, Molokai, here's an excerpt from Visit Molokai:

Kalaupapa's reputation as a leprosy colony is well-known. Hansen's disease, the proper term for leprosy, is believed to have spread to Hawaii from China. The first documented case of leprosy occurred in 1848. Its rapid spread and unknown cure precipitated the urgent need for complete and total isolation.

Surrounded on three sides by the Pacific ocean and cut off from the rest of Molokai by 1600-foot (488m) sea cliffs, Kalaupapa provided the environment.

In early 1866, the first leprosy victims were shipped to Kalaupapa and existed for 7 years before Father Damien arrived.

The area was void of all amenities. No buildings, shelters nor potable water were available. These first arrivals dwelled in rock enclosures, caves, a
Photo - Father Damien, Kalaupapa, Molokai, Hawaiind in the most rudimentary shacks, built of sticks and dried leaves.

Photo - Makanalua Peninsula, Kalaupapa, Molokai, HawaiiTaken after Damien had constructed most of the houses seen here, this photo shows the stark, barren peninsula and settlement at Kalawao in the 1880s.


Folklore and oral histories recall some of the horrors:
the leprosy victims, arriving by ship, were sometimes told to jump overboard and swim for their lives. Occasionally a strong rope was run from the anchored ship to the shore, and they pulled themselves painfully through the high, salty waves, with legs and feet dangling below like bait on a fishing line.

The ship's crew would then throw into the water whatever supplies had been sent, relying on currents to carry them ashore or the exiles swimming to retrieve them.


In 1873, Father Damien deVeuster, aged 33, arrived at Kalaupapa. A Catholic missionary priest from Belgium, he served the leprosy patients at Kalaupapa until his death. A most dedicated and driven man, Father Damien did more than simply administer the faith: he built homes, churches and coffins; arranged for medical services and funding from Honolulu, and became a parent to his diseased wards.

Shown here in a rare pencil sketch from December, 1888, Damien contracted the disease, and after 16 years of selfless service, died in 1889.
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MOLOKAI, THE BOOK

In preparation for this story I was also guided via a friend from Sedona, Arizona to read a heart-wrenching book "Molokai" by Alan Brennert.  If you click on the link or on the cover picture, you can order it online.  Ambrose Hutchinson was the young man I pictured in the second version of my story who also served as a model to Brennert for one of the book characters.  Hutchinson was born in 1856 on Maui's northeastern shore.  He was shipped to Kalaupapa (Molokai - see the map) on Jan 5, 1979.  Her spent nearly 54 years in this virtual prison for lepers.  This is what he wrote about his arrival:

"We were left on the rocky shore without food or shelter. No houses were provided for the likes of us, the outcasts."

As Hutchinson and his fellow-leper outcasts made their way toward the settlement, he saw a sick man in a wheelbarrow dumped on the threshold of the "dying shed."  This was also a  scene reenacted in Brennert's book.

In 1946, Sulfone drugs were introduced in Hawaii.  They put Hansen's disease into remission.  The sufferers were no longer contagious. In 1969, after 104 years, Kamehameha V's isolation act was repealed.  Today, fewer than 30 former patients remain on the peninsula.  They are free to travel or relocate elsewhere, but most chose to remain where they have lived for so long.  On Aug 10-11 of this year, members of Ka Ohana O Kalaupapa, a non-profit organization, visited Hilo for an event that featured music, a video documentary and a panel discussion.  This shaman held a simultaneous brief ceremony at the Rainbow Shower at 11AM on Aug 10 to honor and commemorate the exiles of Kalaupapa.

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NOTE: Pali is a Hawaiian word for a ridge for nearly vertical cliffs. Haole is Hawaiian for a white man.

Additional Guidance by Hopi Blue Corn Maiden

After I finished the story, I asked my spirit guides for guidance for the rest of the day, as I usually do, by drawing a card from a Mystic Medicine Card deck. I drew the NEW GROWTH card, the Blue Corn Maiden from the Hopi indigenous culture. Here's her message...

"When the Earth shifted thousands of years ago, the ancient Hopi people lived underground. They knew how to communicate with nature and get guidance from the Creator. So they knew when it was safe again for them to resurface and plant the seeds for New Growth."

That time is now again. In the painting, the Blue Corn Maiden holds a feather of an Eagle and of the Condor. An ancient prophesy says that when the Eagle and the Condor fly together, there will be peace on Earth.

THE END (for now).

Love  Light

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