Alunita’s Distant Cousin

During our island round about I happened to come upon some evidence of some recent traditional boat building on the windswept pier of Aakapa. An outrigger canoe that had obviously had a long life of service already was sitting in the shade of a tree. It sported brand new struts making up the connection of the iakos with the ama. These contraptions have been the subject of vast studies amongst historians and anthropologists. Their mechanical function is actually quite complex. That connection needs to be sturdy enough to resist the constant nagging and tugging of the waves. A certain degree of flexibility will actually help, since total rigidity on the water very seldom survives the need for constant motion. The ama moves through the water at whatever speed the canoe is driven, partially and at times totally submerged. Everything therefore needs to be streamlined or the water will tear it apart. Different cultures have come up with different solution to this common problem and experts are able to pinpoint geographic location and cultural origin by looking at a particular ama-iako connection.

While for Alunita I invented my own way of dealing with the problem based on the suggestions of the canoe’s designer and some of the local customs in Hawai’i. As most of the things we do, it is far from perfect. So I’m constantly looking around for way to improve functionality, weighing against any change the amount of work that would have to go into it. That’s where human genius comes in. It finds ways of incredible simplicity to solve the most complicated problems. We in the Western world have become masters of such engineering, focused on the outer mechanical and now more and more cybernetic aspects of our environment. We have though failed considerably in applying similar thirst for practical solution to our inner worlds and to our social networks. So there’s still work to do!

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