The more than 900 moai statues of Rapa Nui are believed to honor the ancestors of the Polynesians who crafted them with love and strength between 1250 and 1500. These 15 maoi are facing inland at Ahu Tongariki, towards a collapsed volcano crater, with the sea throwing massive rhythmic breakers at their back.
Lilia and I have been thinking about the practice of ancestor worship recently; a tradition grounded in the idea that “those who have gone before” have a continual and beneficiary interest in the affairs of the living. DNA tests, psychotherapy, and intergenerational flows of poverty, wealth and social mobility remind us that the ghosts of our ancestors are right here with us even in life’s smallest moments. More moments than I ever really consider.
What does it actually mean to honor them? Do we learn from their wisdom, when we can find it, if we can listen? Forgive their transgressions? Do we fight to try and make their transgressions right? Share their joys and traditions? Tell their stories? What do we hold tightly and what do we hold loosely? Where is the place for pride, and where is the place for unraveling old patterns and setting them free?