Respecting the Sacred

I read every comment posted to DV, partly to moderate them. On a rare occasion I need to delete something that violates the rules. I also read them seriously, sometimes they contain something to think about, or even write about…

Mauna Kea Shadow
The shadow of Mauna Kea appears through the mist and haze at sunset

“People do not belong on the mountain if they don’t care about it’s sacredness.” – Anonymous comment on DarkerView

I will give whomever wrote this comment credit, he only asks that we care about the belief of others, not necessarily share them. This is an important distinction and a wise one. I have seen social media comments that take this much further, that claim an ownership of Mauna Kea and express the opinion that “haoles” should be excluded totally from the summit of Mauna Kea.

Personally, I think that anyone should be able to visit Mauna Kea, that no test for their personal beliefs should be necessary. The mountain does not belong to anyone one, or any specific group. It is a special place that belongs to all. It is important that we should care about the beliefs of others, to have some respect for those about us. But we need not share that belief.

Respect is expressed in our behavior. When I enter a cathedral or temple, as I often have, I do not run about being a nuisance. I behave in a respectful manner. I have come to enjoy the beauty of the architecture, to learn the history of the place, to behold the artwork. This has led to many wonderful experiences, conversations with a priest or caretaker who is more than willing to share his special place with one who has come to learn. I do not recall a single time I have been asked whether I believe in God, Mohammed or Buddha on such a visit, it does not matter.

I have visited many of the ancient sacred sites on this island, the great heiau of Puʻukoholā or Moʻokini, minor fisherman’s heiau overlooking the sea, and small ahu almost forgotten on the side of Mauna Kea. Each site is a glimpse into the past, to the lives of people now gone.

Mauna Kea is no different. There are places on the mountain, various shrines, the shores of Lake Waiau, where it is clear that the site is sacred. Offerings lay scattered about, coral and shell, a lei pinned under a rock, a bundle of ti leaves weathered nearly white by the sun. I do not move or trample these objects, I leave them be. I will often take a moment to sit silently and consider what the place is, what it means to others, even if I do not share those beliefs.

Mauna Kea is sacred to some, who believe that this place is pivotal, the piko of creation. Others believe that the telescopes are sacred, a testament to the finest aspirations of mankind, to learn and explore, to answer the great questions. It is a mistake, made by many in this controversy, to deny either of these views.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on Mauna Kea, Hawai'i.

One thought on “Respecting the Sacred”

  1. Mauna Kea is indeed a sacred place. It deserves to be protected and people who visit it should respect the place. This is very true. The issue I have is that many seem to believe that sacred places should be respected but then turn around and fail to care for other places. The simple fact is that this world, in all it’s glory, deserves to be cared for and treated as sacred for only through our caring for the land can we hope to preserve it for the future. Too often this is forgotten. Also, the belief of any individual or group are just as valid as the beliefs of any other group. Respect of those beliefs should always be demonstrated. It is those people who have no true beliefs of their own that trample the beliefs of others. It is sad that things have reached a point where it is necessary to close access to this sacred mountain. I will be back on the island of Hawaii at the end of August and look forward to another visit. It is sad that I will be restricted from visiting this place that holds such a strong pull in my heart.

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