Sunday, February 17, 2013


Something which I understand is no uncommon state for humans, greatly troubles me at times.  Hypocrisy, defined by as "a pretense of having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles, etc., that one does not really possess," seems to be rampant in political-social groups, as I see it.  This thought crept back into my mind and began irking me all over again the other day as I was flipping through the "Sundance" catalog that had just shown up at the house.  I was thinking about the people the products were designed for, the eyes that were meant to see and tastes meant to tingle with desire in response to the images.  The images sport middle-age, athletic, outdoorsy looking women clad in earthy tones and natural textures.  The jewelry is many variations of the hammered and worn, "ethnically-inspired" combinations of gems and metals meant to look like they were picked up at a flea market in ancient Tenochtitlan.  Then the eye searches for and finds the $857 price listing for the leather wrist band and the realization and quiet shock comes that enough people are comfortable with that to continue the trend.

Obviously there is nothing overtly evil in purchasing these products, or wearing them, yet my stomach knots up when I think of the message the wearing of these products are meant to send and the reality behind it.  In Hawaii, it would be said this schism of reality and portrayal is not pono--it is not balanced, not right.  Using our cultural markers--our symbols--these styles, textures, designs are meant to represent values that the wearer must have, at least obviously they wish to portray.  Those values might include simplicity in life, concern for and closeness with the Earth, an active interest in other cultures and peoples around the world.  The products are targeted for upper-middle-class folk who probably cavort in circles that shop primary at high-end health food stores and talk about the threat global warming at their fancy vegan dinner parties. 

Let's contrast this with an example from the other end of the spectrum of hypocrisy.  My husband's grandparents, KH and SH of the Teton Valley, are some of the least hypocritical people I know.  The values they claim, they live in every observable facet of their lives.  They do it quietly, out of conviction in and love for their principals, and not for show.  These are probably the most politically conservative people I have ever had the joy of knowing and this is how they live:  KH was a widely-loved and respected doctor, at one time, the only one in the entire valley.  He saw patients with ailments and accidents of a tremendous scope.  Often, when people couldn't pay, he traded them his services for bags of potatoes, paintings they had done, wheat, meat, or anything they did have.  They live in a simple, pleasant log cabin they began building in the 80s so their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren could stay there on visits.  They decided, however, to sell their house and live in the cabin full time as they preferred the peace, quiet, and simplicity it offered.  It was enough.

Grandpa, though 80 years old, chops all of his own firewood.  They heat with the wood stove, paper waste is separated and burned, and have a wonderful productive garden from which they get almost all of their vegetables.  They make wonders like blackberry jam, choke-cherry syrup, and grape juice--self-picked, canned, preserved goods fill their pantry and spill over to friends and family.  They eat nothing but homemade bread and delicious, hearty and healthy home-cooked meals.  They buy locally, for the quality, the things they cannot grow--like meats from butchers in the valley.  It seems that nothing is thrown out that can be used again, containers are always re-used for instance, and they frown when grandchildren or great-grandchildren throw away any food.  Though comfortable financially, I have noticed that they are completely content with the clothing they have had for many years.  Grandma wears a sweater with patches over the holes in the elbows.  I don't know if that would embarrass her, but to me, it summarizes the most beautiful things about her soul.  It is enough.  For Christmas, they ask that their children, etc. get them nothing, and instead make a donation to one of a few charities that helps orphans or other struggling people.  Throughout their marriage, they have accepted numerous vagrants-of-sort into their home as needed and have loved them and still talk about them as a part of the family.  Downtime at the ranch is spent reading enlightening literature, watching educational films, or having in-depth discussions about important topics.  They work, teach, love with their whole hearts.  They live what they are and claim to be nothing different.  These aspects of their lifestyle I mentioned are not, to them, part of a political agenda or an effort to appear "globally conscious" or "reduce their footprint" (I have nothing against these endeavors themselves, but with some applications of them).  They grew up in a world--unlike our disposable, commercial, counterfeit one--that did things because they were practical, they made sense, they were good for the body and soul, they required less and their profits--materially and otherwise--were more.  This is pono.  They are what they are.  They are the salt of the Earth.

It is my dream to emulate this second example and seek to never be deceived and fall prey to the follies of the first. 

1 comment:

  1. Michaela, your grandmother and I were quite surprised to be reading your essay above and suddenly find that we were featured. We were across the room from each other and had begun to read this essay at the same time. Sonja turned in her chair and asked, in a quiet voice, are you reading this that Michaela wrote? I had been exactly.

    Michaela one does not often stumble onto a portrait of onesself that describes prosaic behavior in terms such as you used. I will admit that it caused us to stop and examine ourselves as we have not done before.

    You are a precious and special addition to our family for which we are profoundly grateful.