Now there’s a title guaranteed to garner sympathy.
I am in Tahiti, overlooking the Pacific, with a view profoundly beautiful, and a heavy heart.
For the last three mornings I have awakened well before dawn. I have watched the nearly-full moon dancing with the clouds as it set.
I’ve listened to the surf roar as it washes over the reef surrounding Morea, speaking of the deep power of the sea. I’ve listened to the birds calling as dawn broke. Watched men racing on the currents, rowing boats or paddle boards. I’ve floated quietly in the waters, watching the sea life below, fish darting in and out of coral caves, every color and shape imaginable. And then listened as the roar of the surf is replaced by the roar of engines. Jet skis fly by, churning up the waters. Watched as the day shifted from the power of the sea and earth to man’s power.
Last night we watched the requisite “native performance”. It was anything but that–rather a deeply spiritual experience. It starts with the thrumming of a dozen drums—a sound that grabs your heart and takes control of its beat. The men enter, deep voices joining the drums, dancing with abandon, a dance of their strength and their connection to the earth. The women join, beautiful but with their own power, completely inhabiting their lush earth-mother spirits.
All were covered with tattoos in remarkable patterns that made sense in this context. Everything reflected their connection to each other and to this earth. Then in the midst of the power and thrumming, the performance ends with the dance of the bird. First a woman, covered in yellow feathers and then two men, their power now transformed to an unlikely grace as beautiful as any ballet I’ve seen. The drumming was punctuated by bird calls being made by the other men. I was reminded of Stravinsky’s Firebird or Sacré du Printemps, but this was more… more “sacré”.
And at this moment of deep meaning… the audience was asked to join and then to take photos with the dancers and a moment of profound significance was turned into a tourist sideshow.
I left the performance asking myself again why it is that when confronted with cultures with such powerful and beautiful ritual has the invaders’ inclination always been to destroy?? Why is our reaction not instead to absorb their perspective and add it to our own? With life as complex and deeply perplexing as it is, why would we not grab and hold every morsel that gives us more insight and rather destroy anything that counters our small, narrow beliefs?
I so I wake this morning in the midst of the beauty of Tahiti and with a heavy heart.