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Stateside With Rosalea: Huiaroha

Stateside With Rosalea: Huiaroha

By Rosalea Barker

I beg your indulgence again, for my yearly ex-pat homily on Waitangi Day. If nothing else it'll make a bit of light relief on a day that radio commentators introducing Colin Powell's address to the UN Security Council said will determine the relationship of the United States to all the other countries in the world from this day forth.

Huiaroha. Now there's a word. I made it up of course, years ago, but I liked it so much I wrote it in the margin of a photocopied image I had on my wall in Lower Hutt, and which I also have here in the US. As portmanteau words go it could be a love fest or it could be an untidy old bird with middle-age spread and the likeability of a stingray.

But about a week ago an image came to mind of a sea creature that kind of fits the name and it occurred to me that it was a good metaphor for what a nation is - indeed the whole world community I suppose. At first I thought it was a ray of some sort, but when I looked on the internet to see how they move, the method of propulsion wasn't comparable, and that was the key to the image.

The huiaroha has the profile of a disc that is fatter in the middle than at the edge, which is very thin so it can undulate. It is that undulation that moves the creature, and the relative strength of the undulation at any point on the circumference of the huiaroha determines the direction in which it goes.

If you imagine that the bulky body of the animal is society and that the encircling "fin" is fed by the different schools of thought within that body of what a society should be, then you get an idea of what I'm on about. Polar opposites like left/right, black/white, progressive/conservative are inadequate to describe how such a creature moves, because all the many gradations of those and other dichotomies exist at the same time.

Metaphorically speaking, right now it's very important for the world to get out of the boat and into the water. It's nice but no longer helpful to say we're all in the same waka, because that still implies there's two sides and that there needs to be somebody calling the strokes. Sure, if you accept the huiaroha concept you're also accepting the pitches and yaws of a providence over which no one part of the creature has control.

But isn't that what faith is?

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