Wholism must prevail
in fireworks controversy
At some point consideration for others
must come before our own
Take our online fireworks pollBy Lee Farris
MANY Honolulu residents -- human and otherwise -- once again had to suffer the smoky, fog-like shroud of pollution from fireworks that permeated large areas of the city this past New Year's Eve.
Articles and letters to the editor have expressed polar points of view regarding this semi-annual orgy of holiday explosives. That the governor, along with innumerable others, experienced respiratory discomfort caused by this latest display of "culture" shows just how valueless that term has become.
Fireworks proponents retorted, in answer to Cayetano's initiative to control this hazard, that complainers should 1) go see a doctor and 2) shut up.
Such persons apparently have never considered the benefits of wholistic thinking, an attitude that encompasses not only our own selves but all other life. It recognizes that all freedoms must have limits, that at some point our obligations to others must take precedence over personal freedoms to protect everyone's most basic rights.
In wholism, as the term is used here, culture is not lost but remains vitally alive in its most precious elements.
The teachings of Confucius, Buddha, the Kan-Ying P'ien and much else concerning Eastern cultural values are worthy of respect in wholistic thinking, even though this concept need not be attributed solely to any one teacher or set of beliefs.
The word wholism, also spelled holism, stems from the Greek holo, and from Old High German heil or hale, meaning healthy, unhurt.
This unfragmented approach engages the individual physically and spiritually within its circle of compassion for all living things -- for trees, plants, birds, land and marine animals, for persons of different beliefs and different appearance, for earth and sea, in effect for all creation. Within a life lived wholistically, only the destructive elements of a culture need be abandoned.
When we understand this attitude, we are in effect espousing Albert Schweitzer's concept of "reverence for life." This inspiration came to him when he chanced upon a herd of hippopotamuses while traveling on a barge upriver to perform an errand of mercy in French Equatorial Africa (later Gabon).
Renowned as a Christian theologian and philosopher as well as a medical doctor, Bach organist and the winner of the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize, Schweitzer's use of the word "reverence" was not necessarily a religious term. It simply meant, and means, respect for all life.
In wholism, we become more aware of how our personal actions cause larger effects. Business may be conducted for profit only, or in a way that shows concern for its employees. Technology's "soul-less" development, to use Pope John Paul II's description, has caused many individuals and groups to try to return to a more earth-focused kind of life, tending gardens, protecting trees, cleaning shorelines, reducing pollutants in the air, water and food.
Environmentally, everyone can live more wholistically. We may try to eliminate places that hold the standing water that breeds mosquitoes, and realize that we might live well even if a few weeds thrive among the grassy lawns.
Wholism includes respect for the birds that reduce insect populations and that work alongside "pests" to pollinate and reseed our plants and trees. When people act wholistically, they use fewer herbicides and pesticides that poison not only earth but flow to sea and poison it, too.
They are more inclined to buy smaller Earth-friendly cars instead of unnecessarily large behemoths, to turn down the volume and select peaceful music instead of structure-shaking, brain-harassing noise.
They are more likely to engage in the tranquil pursuits of reading and walking, or prefer wholesome vegetarian foods instead of supporting inhumane and often disease-ridden food-animal factories and slaughterhouses.
They try to protect wildlife habitat, and enjoy controlled fireworks displays, leaving their neighbors and the animals in peace on New Year's Eve and the Fourth of July.
Some aspects of the lack of a wholistic respect for life are not only unsightly but unsanitary.
Has anyone not noticed the cans, bottles and plastic debris "growing" along roadsides and beaches? We are anxious to accuse birds and other animals of carrying disease, but are there any wild creatures that have not had to traipse over the often disease-ridden human spittle hurled into their meager city habitats?
To be engaged in wholism is to understand that species which are not "ours" are nevertheless to be respected instead of poisoned, and to recognize that we ourselves have caused them to proliferate by feeding them, altering their habitats or otherwise disturbing their natural rhythms.
It is to help sentient beings such as farm animals to be freed from coffin-like cells and cages in factories. It is to appreciate conservation of earth and sea resources so that our children and grandchildren can also share in them.
It is to protest certain "cultural" activities -- the destructiveness of firing off tens of thousands of explosives or the brutality of cockfighting -- and to encourage the perpetrators to value other aspects of their culture that will result in their own greater well-being.
Young people who need action, instead of carrying on unhealthy or inhumane traditions, would be caught up in life-enhancing activities in which everyone could participate and from which they and their peers could derive a sense of belonging.
Blaise Pascal maintained that "all of humanity's misery stems from the inability to sit still and think." A bit more thinking might reduce the number of times we hear those mindless cliches -- "It's a free country" or "Get a life" -- that we, too, often hear when trying to work out solutions.
Persons who mistrust wholism or holism, because of religious beliefs, should think again. What religion or culture worth its name would want you to be unhealthy, not to be "whole?"
On the contrary, many religious entities are embracing a less fragmented attitude, and realizing the crucial link between responsible, whole-minded personal behavior and the health of our life-sustaining planet.
Lee Farris is a Honolulu resident and free-lance writer.