For the past few weeks I have been a full-time caregiver for a 74 year old man from my meditation group who has treatable blood cancer.
The other day, Fox, my 8 year old son, shadowed me while I took my client to the cancer center and back to his house. After watching me work, Fox said, “So you are a slave.”
I explained to Fox that I am a caregiver. I help others that need assistance. But I can see how he could perceive me as a slave since I cook, clean, attend to, and follow my client around making sure he has everything he needs.
At first, I was saddened that my son had such a low opinion of what I do (Read: Who I am). But then I thought about Hawaiian elder, Hale Makua’s description of the roles we play in life.
The 1st level is kauwā—the slave, the level of the servant. These souls have come to be of service. The 2nd level is kaha kiʻi—the artist. The 3rd level is the warrior—ke koa. The 4th is meaʻimi naʻauao—the scholar. The explorer, sage, teacher is the next level. The 6th level is the priest, the prophet, the healer—the kahuna nui. The 7th level is ali´i—the chief, king, queen, the one who has achieved mastery of all the previous levels.
The first 2 levels, the servant and the artist, are about aloha—love, compassion. But number 3, the warrior, is about the energy of Kū—competition. On the level of scholar, we step back into aloha. But at the level of the sage, we go back into the energy of Kū. The 6th level is a return to aloha, for “in order to be effective as the priest or as the healer, we can only come from aloha, from love, from compassion, and we have to choose it.”
In this lifetime, I seem to have taken on all of these roles. In high school, I was a servant at Marie Calendars and Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor. I’ve been a filmmaker/writer throughout my life. I tried to be a warrior as a martial artist and surfer. I was a scholar in grad school. I then became a teacher. And lately, I’ve been a healer.
I don’t claim to have mastered any of these roles, but I do feel like I’ve come full circle. In the eyes of modern society, I appear to be a failure—a 52 year old caregiver making just enough to stay afloat. But in Hawaiian epistemology, I am returning to Aloha and service. Nothing is more important than Aloha.
I am grateful for the return to service. I hope one day my sons understand the choices I’ve made. My life isn’t how I’d ever envisioned it, but it makes a lot of sense.