Within the next week, 'Iokepa and I are heading to Nashville, Tennessee - with a purpose. That purpose is the celebration of the marriage of our son, Sam and our new daughter, Elizabeth. In many ways, this takes me into new territory - breaks new ground. This is my first-born son taking on the responsibility and commitment of a new family - or rather extending the tentacles of several existing ones. It is happening in the home of Country Music, another unfamiliar cultural venue. We are enormously enthusiastic on all counts.
The young couple are creating their own ceremony, writing their own vows, paying their own way, and promising not to offend any of the very mixed cultural ancestors who may be in attendance. They are, in fact, personalizing a very old ritual indeed.
Naturally, ritual lay at the heart of both 'Iokepa's culture and mine. It is the message which Return Voyage, in its heart of hearts, celebrates: the voyage home to our deepest spiritual, cultural, and community connections.
And ritual - in an era that typically celebrates individual celebrity at the expense of shared responsibility - is often dismissed, maligned, or ridiculed. It is a mistake. Ritual is the glue that affixes us to one another, to the seen and unseen. Ritual is what makes us whole.
'Iokepa explains his aboriginal Hawaiian take on ritual.
"We live from breath to breath. This breath is all that we have. We offer gratitude for that gift. Gratitude creates ritual."
The kanaka maoli - Native Hawaiians - had a specific chant and hula for every single night of the year - 365 of them. Every moon phase had its unique ritual. The community gathered at the top of their sacred heiau--and collectively they offered (and offer still) their gratitude.
Sam and Elizabeth - a very modern young couple, who nonetheless characteristically share with one another the deepest sense of responsibility for all that they see, hear, and can affect in their enormously inclusive world - have, with their wedding in Nashville, invited their diverse community of friends and family to step into their ritual of gratitude.
It is only appropriate. These two have a great deal to be grateful for - not the least of which is the love of one another.