Eros And Thanatos In Polynesia

It so happened that I lived for a while in Polynesia, and this extends the story up to the Antipodes. I had recently come back from the countries of the South Pacific, from the Polynesian islands. I was bringing with me the brain tomographies of a Maori minister, the file with his analyses. The doctors from Wellington, New Zeeland, said that his epileptic centre of contagion could not be operated, but only treated with medicines. But the man was suffering very much, the treatment did not yield any results, and he was afraid of a corrosion process. Hearing that I was leaving for Romania, and knowing from me that in Romania there are very good specialists in neurosurgery, the Maori minister asked me to consult the former, and find out if his tumor could be operated. He gave me his analyses and the x-rays file, which weighed about two kilos. I laid this file before Corina Bals, a specialist in operating the epileptic centre of contagion. "What are the Polynesians like?" doctor Corina asked me. "Are they still those suave beings from Gauguin's Noa Noa? "That mixture of innocence and warlike spirit?" "Yes," I said. "The Polynesians still behave like children of nature. I'm referring to those from the small islands of the Pacific and to the Maoris from New Zeeland. To those on whom globalization did not wreak havoc." Doctor Corina was looking at the x-rays of this Maori minister. She was looking at the brain map of this man coming from a primordial, ancient race, unlike any of the three main races on the planet. And yet, his brain was like any other of the human race. Its functions might have had different tinges – but the anatomic design perfectly resembled that of anyone. Illness and death make us all similar. "We are identical through Thanatos but different through Eros," I said. "What do you mean by this?" asked Corina. "When it comes to love, Polynesians are different. They do not know the 'lover' category. It was only with nations stifled by laws that this category flourished secretly. There is no adultery with Polynesians because love is free, natural. It is pure and serious, without Asia's idealisms, without Russians' ardency, without Europeans' concupiscence… in love, they are not familiar with the prelude, the flirtation, the seduction game, the feline behavior through which the girls' demureness is shattered by gallinacean wooers. Polynesian women have no censorship and inhibitions – because they did not experience aggression and interdictions. They do not need the sophisticated love prelude, which is yet so very attractive and is often the better substitute of love. But perhaps I am speaking of things partly bygone, and of things which an anthropologist still selects for old-fashioned papers, or for papers reconstructed due to postcolonial pressures. I came to know Polynesian man through Auhina. I met Auhina at the Institute of Anthropology in Wellington. She is educated and she is not a typical Polynesian, as such. She is with one foot in the whites' civilization. In fact, she was the one to draw my attention to this situation. She said: "I'm sorry that I'm not what you expected, I'm not the savage traditional Polynesian, nature's child. I'm sorry I cannot offer you the opportunity of meeting 'le bon sauvage', the gentle savage woman. What can I do? You came too late, I couldn't have remained savage forever, waiting for you…" Auhina has the sense of humor. She said: "Don't indulge in illusions. You should know that the Samoan women that you saw dancing in the nude, undulating themselves, with a leaf of grass over their pubic area – are not 'typical' Polynesians. They are a dance ensemble, trained and instructed, that is, a commercial product. We also export nudity and lechery wrapped in coconut leaves." Auhina is charming and witty. She is an atypical Polynesian woman, almost a pakeha. The word pakeha means "bizarre", "abnormal"; they call the whites pakeha, first of all the Saxons, but also the other Europeans. Nevertheless, Auhina did not break off completely with her Neolithic. She participated in all the meetings of her tribe. Whenever we were alone, on the beach, under a shrub of rarauhe, she would draw around us the protective magic circle, and recite a short protective karakia (incantation), convinced that that was the way things were. She preserved the Maori spirit. She spent all holidays in her tribe. Even the harvest holiday, which lasts for 12 days (during which she took leave from the Institute). She took me to a tribe meeting, in marae: the house of law. I saw that she was behaving there as any Polynesian, she didn't give away, through anything, that she was educated. She put on the traditional costume and aligned herself to the women in the community. She was very glad when she heard me starting to speak Maori. She learnt by heart, in her turn, a few poems in Romanian. But she didn't break up with her tribe, she was closer to her people than to the white people. She would tell me: "The pure Polynesian type is less and less preserved. Perhaps somewhere in the French Dominions, in the Marquesas Islands, that ancient type is still preserved. Maybe in Tonga, Fiji… there one might meet that type of Polynesian woman – vahine – a child of nature, who likes to sleep with the white man, in a plain natural manner, with no complexes, no prelude, no concept of sin. The sexual prelude was probably invented by you in order to surpass the censorship in front of sex, the inhibition, the blockage before nakedness. Or maybe this is also a child-conception or a demographic stabilizer… with the Polynesians, there is no such psychological censorship." "And there is no possessiveness," Auhina would also say. "This is only with you, the whites, characterized by the sense of property. We get our food from nature. We do not store, capture, pack the barn or the house. We do not install locks. The woman is not a property. Sex is not taxable. That's why there is no prostitution. A Polynesian woman doesn't sleep with somebody for money and doesn't claim anything. She likes it if you buy her various objects – there is something childish in her pleasure to receive gifts and toys. But she receives them without any connection with the sexual act. Love is free, but not wild. Free, but not passionate." I asked Auhina: "How come that the Polynesian women don't have many children? Is it a decrease in fertility, since we are talking about such an old race?" Auhina gave an unexpected answer: "You know, Anaru, we, the Polynesian women, become pregnant only if we make a man our groom. We become pregnant only with our groom. As for the rest, whomever we might sleep with, we do not become pregnant." I said in amazement: "But is it possible such a natural adjustment of conception? Such a genetic program?" "Yes, it's a special genetic program, met only in our race: we become pregnant only with the man whom we choose as our groom. Some girls begin their sexual life very young, without ecstasy and without sin. But if they don't get married, they will not become pregnant. Hence, we have a clue that our tribe is not from the earth or, anyway, that it has mysterious origins, and doesn't resemble the three main races of the planet. Medically speaking, we, Polynesian women, do not have cyclical periods of ovulation, as the women from other races do. With us, ovulation comes only when the man has become our groom. And then, fertilization is immediate. Only when the mind and the soul lock to a man and ask him to be their husband, only then is the union fertile." Except for this, Polynesian women, the beautiful languid Maori women, cannot have children, no matter how many sexual relations they might have. The intercourse happens, naturally and smoothly, and that's it. But as soon as a man becomes her groom, the Maori woman becomes pregnant with him instantly. She would say: "That is why you don't see mothers alone, alone with their children. Although, on my island, girls begin their sexual life without restriction. They begin it moderately, not passionately. Naturally and easily. You will see that none of them has children before marriage. And there is no idea of birth control with us. I only know from my readings what 'bastards' mean, pakeha! There are no bastards among Polynesians. As long as you are sleeping with a non-groom, there is no ovulation, and therefore you do not become pregnant. And if, at the right time, you become pregnant, then, you definitely found your groom. And the children are born in the family." She would say: "The idea of family is not so rigid with us. Perhaps only in mixed marriages, between Polynesians and pakeha (whites or Caucasians, as we call you). Our family is wide open towards the community, and many children grow together, in the tribe. The child is considered divine, people feel that it belongs first to the gods, not to the humans who happened to conceive it. The child is sent to us from hawaiki (heaven) – only its little body is from the mother and the father. Its soul and the substance of the soul (atua) are from heaven, from the heaven that is our homeland. The child is not the family's property, but a gift from heaven. It belongs to heaven. "There is something different with the children of leaders (rangatira). These children, even if they are still divine gifts, even if they aren't the parent's property either, do not live together with the rest of the children. They are tapu, they cannot be touched until after a ritual of removal from tapu. "I would say there is no 'Polynesian lover' because woman is not a property and man is not an owner. And because there is no interdiction, no oppression. With the freest and most uninhibited people, there is no concept of lover. The lover is the product of the sense of property. "I thus guess that, at the most natural level possible, man is not polygamous and woman is not polyandrous. They only have a sexual instinct which they express according to an inner impulse and to a need of the race, to a law or a custom, to a voice of the tribe, or to a mysterious genetic program." Auhina was single. She hadn't felt the groom yet. One day at the beach, after she drew the magic circle around us, she said: "I am surprised that you, Anaru, have come from far away, right here, on our island. I am surprised that we are now here, so close. It's a great mystery that Tane and Renga (The Earth and the Sky) made it that the feet and the head, although at extremes, can suddenly be joined. It seems so bizarre and special that you should come from the end of the world, and meet me here. And you came exactly the same way we, Polynesians, came: from west eastward, on a magnetic meridian, which, for my ancestors, showed the way, and which nowadays shows us the origin."I replied that I was also surprised at this incident, at this junction of our lives. How two people coming from two ends of the world can meet. They, with their ancient migratory fate, and I, who reiterated it then, reconstructing the path of the migrating people.Then, we got out of the magic circle and started swimming in the ocean. It was sunny, and the water was good. We swam. Auhina had there all the initiative. I could feel it was her ocean, her water, her environment. You could feel, see, that she was in her plasma. She advanced in the ocean water. Then, she let me catch up with her or came to meet me. I liked contemplating how beautiful she was among the waves, how self-confident, on her own ground. from Brain Surgery, Mirabilis, 2003

by Vasile Andru (b. 1942)