Reciting and recording whakapapa is a skill which reflects the importance of genealogy in Māori society. It helps flesh out the story of leadership, land and fishing rights, kinship and status. As I understand it, and this is far from my specialist topic, reciting whakapapa with the speaker’s name spoken after the lineage description is a correct method of formal self introduction.
DETERMINING WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU ARE, WITH A BALANCE OF ASSERTIVENESS, ACCURACY AND SELF AWARENESS, CAN BE A TRICKY AND THOUGHT PROVOKING TASK. Without going too ‘Californian’ about the issue, understanding your identity and answering the “Who am I?” and “What am I?” questions is something we all become aware of from time to time.
IN MY YOUNGER DAYS (about 100 years ago) as a trainee pilot, we thought it was a brilliant idea to carry a card that said immodest and untrue stuff like:
Pilot Officer Mike Rudd
Rock and roll air guitarist
Slayer of dragons
Rescuer of damsels in distress
IT LOOKS VERY SILLY NOW, and an extension of childhood role play, but it was intended as a cool, impressive, jokey bit of fun. If seriousness, certainty and drama are your preference, then check out this version spoken by Russell Crowe in Gladiator:
“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the armies of the north, general of the Felix Legions and loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”
Wow! Beat that, folks.
AT THE HEIGHT OF MY WORKING LIFE, I COULD HAVE TRIED A BIT OF RUSSELL CROWE’S MAXIMUS DECIMUS MERIDIUS STYLE:
“My name is Michael Colin Rudd, commander of a fighter bomber squadron, enforcer of peace in the Former Yugoslavia, and loyal servant to Queen Elizabeth the Second. Father to my son and daughter, husband to my lovely wife. And I will have my rewards, in this life or the next.”
OR WHAT ABOUT A CURRENT ONE?
“Hi! Mike Rudd’s the name, sometimes known as Grandpa. A bit of an aging hipster, magazine columnist, golfer, bridge teacher, and pontificator.”
IN THE EARLIER PART OF OUR LIVES, WE DO TEND TO CARE MORE ABOUT HOW OTHERS SEE US. As children it is instinctive. In young adulthood, it becomes necessary for career and social reasons. As we get older, we think we care less. A friend told me, as I approached my retirement, that your attitude to that event rather depends on how strongly you feel identified by your work.
IT WAS A GOOD CALL. IF YOU THINK OF YOURSELF BY A SINGLE CONCEPT – farmer, managing director, teacher, actor, chef, mother, builder – then there is a danger of losing your identity in retirement. Think of a typical newspaper article, “Today, Tauranga plumber Jim Brown, 44…” Does that description define Jim’s personal identity?
THE FLIP SIDE IS HOW WE ARE SEEN BY OTHERS. Some time ago when I had to wear a surgical neck collar for nearly a year, I became aware that I was being treated less personally by both friends and strangers. I was becoming ‘that bloke with the collar’. Imagine how that must feel to someone with a long-term disability. It is vital to look beyond the obvious, and consider the individual and their personal characteristics, rather than a glib categorisation. Also it’s worth remembering that whilst we might think we are de ned by a set of positive attributes – kind, thoughtful, supportive – we might actually be thought of in less than favourable terms – that guy with the noisy car/untidy garden/gross beard/weird voice.