Nature vs nurture? Why not both

Have your cake and eat it too, treat yo'self! No more choosing one or the other, today I'm gonna show you how you can have both.. Well, I'm just gonna share my perspective but the knowledge and information has been around for a looooong time. I have no kids of my own but I have a few friends who act like kids so that's close enough, pair that with one of the interest areas closest to my heart; human development and behaviour, and we're left with one of the major causes of the nature vs nurture kōrero (conversation).  Why do we do what we do? What are the contributing factors? This kōrero is basically a contrast between; where we live, our experiences impact how we develop (environment) vs our genetics dictate our behaviour (whakapapa/genealogy, ancestry). How onto it (clever, intelligent, smart) then, were our tupuna (ancestors) to personify their surroundings and trace their origins to the natural environment itself - genius. They accomplished and achieved many extraordinary feats in their time but this would be top 2 for sure.

Ka noho tahi a Ranginui rāua ko Papatuanuku, ka puta ko te ira atua

From Sky Father and Earth Mother comes the God line 

Tangaroa (water), Tamanuiterā (sun), Tukapua (clouds), Tāwhirimātea (winds). Look at how they all interact and connect to form this beautiful backdrop - disregard the houses. Perth, 2017

And from those Gods comes mankind. The atua I'm talking about; Tāne Mahuta (forest, knowledge), Hinenuitepō (death), Tāwhirimātea (winds), Tūmatauenga (warfare, mankind), Rongomatāne (cultivated foods, peace), Hineraukatauri (music) and so forth. As Māori (and most if not all indigenous people), we're able to recite our ancestry directly through the generations and back to these guys. Pretty awesome huh, my great x50 koroua (grandfather) is Tangaroa (atua of oceans and water). Yeah yeah Hana, whatever.. sure you descend from the God of the ocean, or forest or anywhere.. First things first I think we better set a few things straight; from my uncolonised understanding, atua are not simply the gods of *insert domain.* They are so much more than that; they are those domains and realms - being the “god of something” sounds so isolated and separate whereas everything in Te Ao Māori (Māoridom, Māori worldview) emphasises connection. Not only is Tangaroa 'god' of the oceans; he is the ocean, the waves, the currents, the life who inhabit the waters etc. Not only is Tāne Mahuta atua of the forest, he is everything within that realm; the trees, the creatures, growth etc. If it's a new concept, take your time with it - it's a little niggly but a much more cohesive, holistic if you will, connected and Māori (natural, awesome) way of observing the world we live in... when you're ready, next paragraph.

So you're saying my tupuna (nature) are also in some way my environment (nurture)?? Ask and you shall receive, the lottery.. again. YES! We descend from our environment and are also shaped by it, the nature and nurture combo, you're welcome. Māori history, traditions, customs and beliefs were recited and passed on from one generation to the next through chants, incantations, stories, dance, song and the arts. These various modes of knowledge transferal described significant events, places and people. Some speak of tragedy and heartache, some recite protocols (as mentioned in this post) and everything in between, but what they all have in common is connection; from people to place, to the other place and back to people. A basic way of communicating connection is with the pepeha (proclamation of genealogical affiliation)*, here's an example;

Ko Tarawera te maunga, ko Te Arawa te waka, ko Te Arawa te iwi.

My mountain is Tarawera, my canoe is Te Arawa, my tribe is Te Arawa.

Kalo have great significance for the tangata whenua (indigenous people) of Hawaii, they whakapapa from the kalo itself. Kailua, 2017

If we maintain the mindset that we whakapapa (originate) from our environment, we can read above and observe that Tarawera is my mountain (nurture), yes, and she is also my tupuna (nature). Tarawera is my ancestor who is now physically represented as a mountain. My canoe and tribe, both named Te Arawa, highlight my affiliation to people, while the mountain (pepeha also usually include reference to significant waterways, landmarks and districts) reveals a connection which runs generations deep, back to the natural environment. Back in Aotearoa (NZ) I would roam around the country and marvel at nature, but also consider the connection I have to the places I'd go. I love a good hike, but never saw the mountains as something to be conquered even though they might be a mission and a half to climb - these were if not my tupuna, somebody else's. Tell me you go around to your Nan and Koro's (grandmother & grandfather) and 'conquer' them, you'll get a good clip around the ears I bet.. We are connected to our natural environment, ā-wairua (spiritually - if you're not into that, it's ok to be wrong jk), but also by whakapapa.

I've used very basic examples above, but it should be clear that it's not about one or the other; nature vs nurture, because the two are one in the same. I reckon that theme overflows to other areas of life too; us vs them, have vs have nots, this or that... once we learn that everything and everyone is all connected, what a wonderful world that would be... Our tupuna knew it! Between the dawn of Te Ao Mārama (world of light) and the world as we know it today, we've been introduced to new perspectives and ways of life, while some were forced upon us and some we eat up like Nutella and strawberries. Some might think the knowledge from our tupuna is irrelevant today or it has no value which I would disagree with. Yeah the execution or methods perhaps, but not the philosophy or protocols that underpin our culture and our people. As I talked about in this post, it is up to us to practice our rangatiratanga (self-determination) and determine for ourselves how to utilise the knowledge and information and make it relevant to our lives today. The information is gold! There is so much value in the karakia (prayers, incantations), waiata (songs) and pūrākau (stories), we must become more receptive and intentional about interpreting the messages and the connection within them and applying it to our own lives.

We've taken a basic observation of the natural environment and how we connect to it by whakapapa (nature) and by lifestyle and experiences (nurture). No more one or the other, this or that; have your cake and eat it too (talking about the metaphor of knowledge and information - not the actual cake... or am I?).


E aku rahi, noble people,

Ngā mihi nui, thank you.



*Translations for some Māori kupu (words) in this post fit this context and may be translated differently in another. It's normal. Also, a translation for pepeha has been difficult to come by because it includes the connection and reference to significant places and people.. very difficult to express totally in writing - if you have other suggestions or any comments at all, nau mai, please do.