03 August 2010

Bring the Island to You Instead of You Going to the Island

To those of us who are blind to the night sky, and deaf to the language of clouds, currents and ocean swells, it seems like a mystical or superhuman act.

I've always been fascinated by the ideas involved in Polynesian wayfinding. The idea of moving the island to you instead of you moving toward the island is so novel to anyone raised on Western thinking. We take so much of our rational, reductionist scientific beliefs for granted, our coordinates and maps, and compasses, as if they are the only way to navigate. While we ignore the most powerful navigational "computer" of all, the human brain. We forget in our "rationality" that there are other equally valid ways of "reasoning" about the world, coping with the world around us, that do not involve precise "facts", numbers and reasoning, but that use our powers of observation, pattern and cleverness. The NY Times has an article on the passing of an important Pacific traditional navigator, who helped restore navigational folkways.