Sunday 26 October 2014

A visit to Wellington

Guy McPherson in Wellington, New Zealand

 The buildings of Tapu te Ranga Marae are reportedly the tallest wooden building made from recycled timber

After a lecture in Auckland in which Guy was ambushed by a lecturer from AUT and a successful lecture at the Dowse Gallery we held a gathering at the Tapu te Ranga Marae in Island Bay, Wellington.

We all gathered in the car park of the marae and were called into the marae by the sound of a conch shell and a call from the women of the marae (karanga) which was followed by a powhiri (a welcome onto the marae). This was followed by a brief welcome by kaumatua (elder), Bruce Stewart in which he set out some of the history and ethos of the marae.  After a cup of tea we moved from the dining area to the sacred area of the Whare Ukaipo (which represents the healing feminine principle in Maori culture) for the main part of the proceedings.

Being called onto the marae

 The Whare Ukaipo, where the afternoon was held, represents the feminine principle in Maori tradition

An image of kaumatua (elder), Bruce Stewart, founder of the marae.

Guy addressed us with a presentation which differed in many respects from what I had previously heard. He laid out the background of his ancestry and where he comes from (this is traditional in Maori culture), and his educational background and how his educational philosophy (based on the Socratic principle of asking basic questions, staying with the question without necessarily seeking a definitive answer)

Pam Crisp, Kevin Hester and Guy McPherson (L to R)

He gave the background of his falling out with the Ivory Tower and his experience of working with underprivileged girls in penal institutions in New Mexico (Poetry Inside Out),  and introducing his white middle-class students to this world in which they discovered that the people they had hitherto looked down on were 'just like us'.

This led to a discussion of how we were, as individuals to respond to a reality where life as we know it is likely to disappear on earth in a reasonably short period of time.

Guy's approach is an ethical one of making our responsibility towards the Living Planet the primary one (as opposed to that of 'civilisation'). 

On the individual level this means living a life based on principles of kindness and empathy towards others and also living in the present moment ('living the day as if it were already here') 

Here is Guy's address

After a second, very fulsome tea break about 30-40 of us gathered in a circle for a broad discussion of what was most important for each other.

No time limit was placed on this and so there was a spaciousness in conversation that is unusual.

The following is a report from Andrew Rundle-Keswick, a participant on some of the discussion. Andrew also recorded the proceedings of the afternoon.

Yesterday Guy McPherson met with a group of us at Tapu te Ranga Marae in Wellington, New Zealand. 

We had a very interesting and lively discussion. 

Part way though the discussion one of the participants, Robert Atack raised up the subject of the possibility that any child born today, won’t make it past their 20th birthday, and asked the question why are people still having kids. (This is not a direct quote, just the essence of the discussion that I remember.) The response from the room was very loud and strong against him and I wanted to jump in and offer my support for a conversation exploring the issues he was raising. At the time, as I was sitting there listening to the strong back forth flow of discussion, I couldn’t think of anything to say. It’s only now (at 3am) that the points that I would have liked to have raised have come to mind.

If I had not had a brain freeze and had had the courage to stand up and comment to the angry room, this is what I might have said.

During the tea break some of us were discussing the film “The Road” based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy. As a parent when I watched that film I tried to decide what I would do for my children if (or when) the world degrades to that level of Anarchy (state of disorder). If you haven’t seen “The Road” substitute your favourite Hollywood dystopian film ("Book of Eli" through to "Mad Max”).

If I was in a world similar to “The Road”, where cannibalism was rife, what would I choose for my children, the way out (of suicide) that the character of the mother did in that film, by walking out on her husband and child to freeze to death in the snow. Or would I be more like the father and try to struggle on in a slowly deteriorating world trying to bring up my child in that horrible world where a highlight of my child’s life is to have the experience of having a coke with my dad. (Even in a dystopian movie coke has to get its advertising in.) Or is there a 3rd choice, which is to have the guts to help my son and daughter to commit suicide (IE some sort of family drink the kool-aid thing), or be willing to kill them my self. When my wife and I finally got to grips with all the information from “Nature bats last” and other such sites, we had a conversation about if we had known earlier would we still have had our children? Don’t get me wrong, I love my 2 children very dearly and now that I have them I wouldn't give them up, so I guess my choice would be to do as the father did in “The Road” and do my best to give my children the best life I can provide.

These are the sort of questions I think we need to be willing to talk about and I know this is not an easy subject to talk about and I was very disappointed that a room of people (many of whom had listened to Guy’s talk on Friday night at the Dowse) were not more willing to be open to discuss these issues.

So I wish to apologise to Robert for not standing up and supporting him and encouraging the room to be willing to consider his point of view.


The next day we went to the grounds of the New Zealand parliament to film for an uncoming film 

 Guy with 'Seemorerocks', Robin Westenra

And finally, a visit to the real Seemorerocks (aka Biscuit)

And finally a visit to Wellington's wild coastline (Makara Beach)

1 comment:

  1. Apart from one faux pas on my behalf I had an epic day surrounded by wonderful people. Bruce Stewart was incredibly welcoming and generous.Guy's presentation was as usual unique to the day, empathising how we need to grasp the moment. I was totally impressed with the participants and their contributions and I feel very privileged to be a small part of this tour.


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