Last year Jane and I went down under—a week in New Zealand. After driving from the fjords of the south island and up the west wilderness coast and then ferrying across to the north island, we moved from long stretches of farmland to the bustling hive of Wellington. All advice had pointed to a “can’t miss” visit to Te Papa Tongarewa, The Museum of New Zealand—their Smithsonian, and a tribute to Maori culture and her recent immigrants.
Among the obligatory canoes, instruments, and stuffed animals, the note by Dame Te Atairangikaahu (1931-2006) at left drew us in.
Dame Te Ata, as she was called, was the longest reigning Maori monarch (40 years). She wrote the first paragraph in Maori, then translated as follows:
“Therefore draw from all that you have within you—your god given gifts. In doing so we as a nation will experience as promised prosperity and spiritual fulfillment.”
Dame Te Aka was pointing backwards to the New Testament (I Cor. 4 ff.: “There are different kinds of gifts…) and unknowingly forward to what we call Human Resource Optimization (HRO). This is the notion that we all have innate tendencies, and that the satisfying life learns to build on one’s natural tendencies, and to compensate for what one lacks, but needs.
I was born with a fertile imagination, gladly, but I was also born without strong eyesight, sadly.
I have built on my imagination by following a career in research and development, and a hobby of choral and instrumental music. I have compensated for my weak vision by using drops, avoiding glare, and resisting physical activities which require strong depth perception (skiing, baseball).
A similar notion is the well-worn advice from Reinhold Niebuhr to change, or build, on what one can and to accept what one cannot change.
Thank you, Dame Te Ata, for not letting me forget about my work while at play in your lovely fields.