Do you feel more comfortable in the woods or downtown in a city? Why do you think that is so? Does your comfortability shape what you value?

I once read an article published by Kamehameha Schools about how contemporary geographic growth patterns point out the rise of placelessness across the U.S. Yet we are aware that place has been a critical foundation of human cognition and identity throughout history. With that being said, the article goes on to explain how urban and suburban growth patterns have diminished the unique, historical, and cultural meanings of place to human society today, and that this point may bring no argument from most Americans who may not feel any overwhelming ties to a particular place, who are quite mobile in today’s global society, and who, in fact, may be quite accustomed to the increasing standardization of places, such as strip malls, retail, food, and service chains.

The reason I brought up this article is that it perfectly framed the very reason of why I feel drastically more comfortable in not only the woods, but any place in nature, and particularly Hawaiʻi, than downtown in a city. Now, the prompt asks if ones comfortability shapes what one values. My answer is yes. But I interpret this by thinking of comfortability as place, and value as being my identity.

Place – the consciousness of land, sea, and all that place entails, is fundamental to my identity in complex and intimate ways. Hawaiian cosmology told through the Kumulipo or creation chant, describes that man is moʻokuʻauhau, or genealogically related to nature. This relationship to place is integral to our identity, culture, the physical, spiritual, sociopolitical and historical ties to land and sea of ka pae ‘āina Hawaiʻi. The land is “one hanau,” sands of our birth. We are so close in relationship to our sense of place that we learn the many personalities of the land, its form, features, character and resources, we view ourselves as the kiaʻi or guardians of this place, and we have an obligation to mālama or take care of it. Thus as I get farther and farther away from my sense of place, I am less and less comfortable, and I am less and less able to identify with my surroundings. I do not have this same understanding, love, intimacy, responsibility, purpose, belonging.

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