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Wisdom from the village: Thoughts from the hausman

The hausman
The hausman (men's house) - traditional seat of learning


SEATTLE - We had an uncle named Etepe. He was a bachelor and commanded respect from nearly everyone, including our neighbouring tribe members.

Among his attributes were his fighting skills and the display of some wisdom.

During tribal fights, his ability for long-distance accuracy in hitting his targets with bow and arrows kept many of the opposing tribes at bay.

When we built a house, certain critical phases - especially placing the beam on the ridge that that ran the length of the roof – were put on hold until his approval.

One of his behaviours I found peculiar was his incredible ability to take action that was entirely opposite to his emotion. For instance, he would carry a very heavy load of firewood, that weighed more than his body weight.

Having navigated the steep and winding mountains tracks over very long distance, one would expect him to unload the firewood with a sigh of relief when he got home. Instead, he circled around the house several times with the firewood on his shoulder.

Eventually he dropped his load off of his shoulder with a shout, Suii! Defeated it! I didn’t understand what he had just defeated.

He displayed similar sentiment when it came to quenching his thirst or satisfying his hunger. He placed the water gourd in front of him and stared at it for some time.

Eventually he removed the kunai leaves that sealed the mouth of the gourd and drank the water while holding it several inches over his mouth.

He would leave his cooked kaukau in front of him and waited long after we had eaten before he ate his quite slowly and purposefully.

He had this incredible ability to regulate his impulses, emotions, and exercised a spiritual approach in dealing to dealing with his challenges.

His behaviour made no sense at the time and the children made light of it. Overtime, however I have appreciated the impact it had on me and I am grateful for being surrounded by the likes of Uncle Etepe who had helped shape my life.

It helped me understand some aspects of about self-control, motivation, and how to deal with challenges.

This is particularly relevant in today’s work place environment that requires a good measure of self-discipline and perceptiveness.

None of the self-help books and or motivational business seminars seem to measure up to the depth of time-tested wisdom passed down from the likes of uncle Etepe.

Etepe is long gone. However, few like him are still around for those who value the wealth of wisdom from the village.


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Philip Kai Morre

I lived in the man's house when I was a boy and you have men of all sorts of characteristics and personalities. There are similar men to Uncle Etepe who are special and unique in their own right and admired by the community.

One thing that really interested me was the cooperation and teamwork of men living in the hausman in their work, payment of bride price, compensation, waging war with other clans and tribes, and celebrations.

Those men like Uncle Etepe were bachelors by choice and nobody forced them to be unmarried. They were not interested in women or sex which they considered dirty. Some even cooked their own food and they refused food from others.

They wanted to be independent and mind their own business. I know of a few such people like Uncle Etepe who worked hard, raised pigs and supported others in need but didn't take back.

They allowed you to slaughter their pigs on occasions but didn't care whether you gave some meat back to them or not. They were not angry, they just joked and moved on.

Chris Overland

I think that Joe's Uncle Etepe was living his life in accordance with principles that are reflected in many Eastern philosophies.

These stress self control, thinking before acting and the importance of being able to bear life's trials with stoic fortitude.

His behaviour appears to reflect aspects of what we now days call mindfulness, which stresses focussing on things intently in order to understand them and regulate (to some degree) our responses to them.

I wonder if he was drawing upon a very ancient warrior tradition amongst his people, where qualities like calm in the face of stress and adversity and the capacity to endure suffering and pain, would have been very advantageous in a fight?

The qualities Joe has referred to are not, in my opinion, especially common, either in PNG or elsewhere besides.

We live in an era where exaggerated responses to events are common and there is a persistent over use of superlatives to describe what are, in practice, fairly mundane events.

I think Uncle Etepe would have regarded such behaviours with undisguised contempt, regarding them as examples of poor self control and discipline and more the behaviour of children than a true man and warrior.

I'll bet he was a pretty scary fellow on the battlefield. No wonder the neighbours regarded him with respect (and probably not a little fear too).

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