Native Hawaiians have long considered the towering mountain a place of prayer, ceremony, and pilgrimage. In ancient times only kahunas and royalty were allowed to take the path to the summit.
Ten years ago a huge new $1.4 billion telescope, thirty meters in height (acronymed TMT for Thirty Meter Telescope) was proposed to be erected at Mauna Kea’s summit. Many Hawaiians felt that such a massive imposing technological structure constituted a desecration of sacred land, and they protested. A legal bruja ensued, until finally the court awarded TMT the right to build, ground to be broken this morning.
Last night, in freezing temperatures at 7,000 feet, hundreds of dedicated Hawaiians pitched tents at the entrance to the Mauna Kea access road. When heavy equipment trucks arrived at 7 AM, they found the road blocked by a crowd of protesters carrying signs, chanting, and praying. A half-dozen kupuna (elders) laid down across the road and chained themselves to an in-ground cattle guard; if the trucks were to enter the road, they would have to drive across the bodies of these courageous people.
As Dee and I respect the cause and want to support the well-being of the protesters, we bought a bunch of food and drove to the site. The energy at the scene was intense yet peaceful. Policemen, also native Hawaiians, directed traffic and helped us find our way to the kitchen tent, where we dropped off the groceries. We were touched by the heartfelt intention of these souls who put themselves at risk and endured hardship to make a stand for their land and their cultural heritage.
As we were leaving the area, I beheld a vision that stopped me in my tracks. On a high rock facing the summit, a lone woman holding a staff, perched beside a sturdy altar of flowers and leaves was boldly chanting toward Mauna Kea, calling to the soul of the mountain. Her energy soared far above the fray below. The healer’s singing, praying, and dancing seemed to vibrate that great mountain. The image is forever etched in my mind and heart as one of the greatest demonstrations of devotion and intention I have every observed.
When religious authorities asked John the Baptist who he was, he answered, “I am a voice crying in the wilderness.” This woman, overlooking the sprawling lava-strewn, desert-like territory at her feet, was a modern voice crying in the wilderness. While protesters and police shouted through bullhorns below, her voice pierced through the conflict and made a stronger statement than anyone’s words.
You, too, may feel like a voice in the wilderness. You may have ideas, feelings, and visions that few or no people understand or support. Yet that is no reason to abandon your quest; it is all the more reason to stand firm in your values. The world rarely acknowledges spiritual gifts when they are given. It is only when they bear fruit that their blessings are acknowledged. Some acts of faith may not even bear fruit you will see. That does not matter. The chanting woman did not seek approval or applause. Her contract was not with people; it was with God.
The telescope, twelve times more powerful than Hubble, offers exciting scientific benefit as it would pierce into the far reaches of outer space and help us understand the origin of the universe. As I observed her, the praying woman had already pierced to the origin of the universe; she was not reaching to find it, but singing from it. We can explore the vastness of outer space for many more millennia, but it is only when we tap into the depths of inner space that we will find the answers that ennoble humanity. While TMT may help us know how we got to be here, our deeper purpose is to know why we got to be here. When we look in, we see father than when we look out.
Poet T.S. Eliot summed up our journey most succinctly:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.