Crew Blog | Keoni Kuoha: Learning and Knowing

Keoni enjoying the afternoonCrew blog by Keoni Kuoha

It’s been a while since I’ve sailed long-distance aboard Hōkūleʻa. Actually, it’s been exactly ten years. Spring 2007. We were sailing through Micronesia on our way to Satawal and the ceremonial graduation of our Hawaiian navigators as pwo.

Hard to believe it’s been ten whole years. Well, except, these hands know it’s been ten years. My callouses are only now returning after a week at sea and my palms have taken these same days to get reacquainted with the ache that comes with handling the steering sweep for hours on end. These feet know it’s been ten years, my soles slowly cracking by the multiple cycles of wet and dry that are as constant as the southern swells that lift these double hulls. And this skin knows it’s been ten years. It turns from pasty to papaʻa, a thin crust of salt settled in every pore. Yet, the knowledge kept in these hands, these feet, and this skin persists–keeping course, holding fast, and reveling in the elements of the open ocean. There’s a persistence to knowing, and the knowing cultivated in me through years of voyaging is something I continue to carry with me. Always.

But aren’t we all like this? Previous knowledge guiding our every action, framing our view of the world around us. Of course, our knowing isn’t usually born of voyaging aboard Hōkūleʻa, but that doesn’t make it any less impactful. What each of us know and do with that knowing is powerful, and our ways of knowing and acting are all products of how we come to know (i.e. learning). How I come to know–and continue to learn–determines what I know and what I do with that knowing. In my learning through voyaging, I have created in me a lens on the world that is fundamentally different from the other lenses of my knowing, and each of these lenses tend toward different outcomes.

Speaking of outcomes, if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know that mālama honua is both the theme and the hope of this present voyage. We need to care for this planet and the places we call home. The maintenance and expansion of our wellbeing as a planet needs to be our priority, which brings us back to the impact our knowing has on us and the world around us. We need to be ever more discerning of our mechanisms and methods of learning if positive change is going to happen. Now more than ever, as change becomes the defining feature of our society, the purposeful crafting of our learning systems become critical to our meaningful progress as a species.

Through the course of this voyage, I see examples of learning systems for a better future. Over the past few nights, Bruce Blankenfeld, master navigator and onboard professor, has been taking time in the early evenings to talk about the processes of wayfinding. The concepts are complex and intermeshed, but taken in pieces and offered in the context of an active voyage, the learners find continuous opportunity to associate these new concepts with real world application. We begin to understand the concepts. But, just as importantly, we’re constantly met with new questions and challenges to previous understandings. Green laser in hand, Bruce identifies a pair of pointer stars who, when they reach their apex in the sky, point true north. I take the steering sweep a little later and am challenged to see those same stars, but the professor is there to reorient my eyes to their intended target. I notice new characteristics in the pointer stars’ locale, building new knowledge–well, at least it’s new to me. As the crew takes in Bruce’s every word, our learning extends far beyond the original lesson: personal stories are woven with the sound of wave-wash sliding across the paddle’s blade, relationships are deepened and plans made for future collaborations, scattered clouds blur lines between the known and unknown, and two new pointer stars are emblazoned in my memory.

ʻAʻole i pau…

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