The Severe Disease of Thinking
When the word "spirit" enters the mouth of a Papalagi, his eyes grow big, round and fixed; he raises his chest up, starts breathing heavily and stretches himself like a warrior who has slain his enemy, because this "spirit" is something he is particularly proud of. We aren't talking about the vast, powerful Spirit that the missionary calls "God", of which we are all just poor reflections, but about the little Spirit that belongs to man and creates his thoughts.
When I stand here and look at the mango tree behind the church, that isn't Spirit, because I only see it. But when I recognize that it is bigger than the mission church, well, that must be Spirit. So I just don't have to see something, but I have to know something as well. This knowing is what the Papalagi does from sunrise to sunset. His spirit is always like a gun primed with powder or like an ever active fishing rod. He pities our people of the many islands, because we don't practice this knowing. He says we have poor spirits and are as stupid as the jungle animals.
It it certainly true that we do not make much use of what the Papalagi calls "thinking". But the question is which is more stupid, the one thinking little or the one thinking too much. The Papalagi thinks all the time: "My hut is smaller than the palm tree, the palm tree is bowing to the storm, the storm is speaking with a loud voice." These are the things he thinks, in his own way of course. But he thinks about himself too: "I am short in stature. My heart always rejoices when I see a girl. I love to go to Malaga." And so on...
That is all well and good and may be useful to someone who enjoys playing this game in his head. But the Papalagi thinks so much that thinking has become a habit, a necessity, even a compulsion. He has to think all the time. Only with great difficulty does he manage not to think and to live with all his body. Just his head is alive, while all his other senses are sleeping deeply, even though at the same time he is walking, speaking, eating and laughing. The thinking process, the thoughts (these are the fruits of thinking) keep him imprisoned. It is a kind of intoxication from his own thoughts. When the sun is shining beautifully, straight away he starts thinking: "How beautifully the sun is shining!" And he carries on thinking: "How beautifully it is shining at this moment." That is wrong, fundamentally wrong and foolish, because when the sun is shining it is better not to think at all. An intelligent Samoan stretches his limbs out in the warm light and doesn't think about it. He doesn't absorb the sun just with his head, but also with hands, feet, thighs, stomach, with all his limbs. He lets his skin and limbs be happy and think in their own way, even though it is different from the head's way. But the Papalagi is not able do this; his thinking is like a big chunk of lava that he can't get out of the way. It's true that he thinks happy thoughts, but he doesn't laugh; he thinks sad thoughts but he doesn't cry. He is hungry but doesn't go and get some Taro or Palusami(1). Most of the time he is a man whose senses are fighting with his spirit: he is a man split into two pieces.
Very often the life of a Papalagi resembles a man who has to go to Savaii by boat and, as soon as he has left the shore, thinks: "How long will it take me to travel to Savaii?" He thinks, but he doesn't see the pleasant scenery that his journey takes him through. Soon, on the left bank, he sees a mountain ridge. As soon as his eyes capture it, he can't let go of it: "What could be behind that mountain? Will there be a deep bay or a small one?" By thinking so much, he forgets to sing the joyful songs of the young boatmen, nor does he hear the merry jokes of the young women. As soon as the boat is lying in the bay behind the mountain ridge he is tortured with a new thought: whether a storm will start before the evening falls. Yes, if a storm will be coming. And in a clear sky he starts looking for dark clouds. He keeps on thinking of the storm that might arrive. The storm doesn't come and he arrives unharmed at Savaii that evening. But for him, it is as if he hadn't made the journey at all, because all the time his thoughts were far from his body and outside the boat. He might just as well have stayed in his hut in Upolu.
But a spirit that tortures us like that is a devil and I don't understand why so many people love it. The Papalagi loves and honors his spirit and feeds his spirit with thoughts from his head. He never lets it go hungry, but at the same time he isn't troubled when his thoughts devour each other. He makes a lot of noise with his thoughts and allows them to become as loud as badly educated children. He behaves as if his thoughts were as splendid as flowers, mountains and woods. He talks about them as if a brave man or a happy child were worthless compared to them. He behaves as if there were a commandment that orders man to think a lot. Yes, as if this commandment came from God. But when the palm trees and the mountains are thinking, they don't make such a noise about it. And certainly, if the palm trees thought as loudly as the Papalagi does, they wouldn't have such beautiful green leaves and wouldn't produce such golden fruit. (Because it is certainly true that thinking makes people grow old more quickly and makes them ugly). They would fall from the tree before they were ripe. However, it is more likely that they don't really think much at all.
And there are still more ways to think, and many more targets for the arrows of his spirit. The fate of thinkers go far in their thoghts is a sad one. What will happen next time the sun rises? What will the Great Spirit have in mind for me when I arrive in the other world? Where was I when the messengers of the greatest spirit of them all gave me my soul? This thinking is as pointless as trying to see the sun with yoour eyes shut. It doesn't work. It just even possible to think all the way to the beginning and the end of all things, as the people who try it find out. They stay hunched up in the same place like a kingfisher from their youth to their adult age. They don't see the sun any more nor the great sea orthe lovely girls, no joy, no nothing, and even more nothing. Even kava has no taste for them any more and at the village dances they stand on one side and look at the ground. They do not live, even though they are not dead. They have been struck down by the grave illness of thinking.
This thinking should make the mind great and high. When someone thinks a lot and very fast, in Europe they say he has a great mind. Instead of feeling sorry for such great minds, they admire them greatly. The villages make them to their chiefs and wherever a great mind comes he has to think publicly, and this gives everyone great pleaure and admiation. When a great mind dies, there is grieving in the whole country and a lot of wailing for what has been lost. An image of such a great mind is made out of stone and placed before everyone's eyes in the market place. Indeed, these heads of stone are made much bigger than they were in life, so that people can admire them and remember how small their own mind is.
If one asks a Papalagi: why do you think so much? he answers "Because I don't want and am not allowed to stay stupid." Every Papalagi who doesn't think is foolish; even though in truth, people who don't think are wise and still find their way.
However, I think this is just a pretext and the Papalagi is just following his own wicked urge. It seemss to me that the real purpose of his thinking is to discover where the great Spirit get its power from, something that he calls in high-sounding words "knowledge". Knowledge means having a thing so close to your eyes that you can stick your nose into it to pierce it. This piercing and ransacking everything is a vulgar and contemptible desire of the Papalagi. He takes a centipede, pierces it with a little spear and tears a leg off. What does such a leg, separated from the body, look like? How was it fixed to the body? He breaks the leg off in order to measure its thickness. That is important, that is essential. He removes a piece of flesh the size of a grain of sand from the leg and lays it under a long tube with a secret force enabling the eyes to see much more sharply. With this big and strong eye he looks inside everything, your tears, a shred of the skin, a hair, absolutely everything. He cuts all these things up until he gets to a point where he can't break or divide them any more and, although this point is the very smallest of them all, it is the most essential of them all because it is the entrance to the supreme knowledge that only the great Spirit possesses. This entrance is denied to the Papalagi, and even his best magic eyes haven't looked inside it yet. The great Spirit doesn't allow its secrets to be taken away. Never. No one has ever climbed a palm tree higher than the palm tree he had his legs around at the time, and at the crown he has to turn back because there is no more trunk to climb higher. The great Spirit doesn't love mankind's curiosity of mankind, and so he has laid down great lianas on everything that are without beginning and without end. So anyone who tries to follow thoughts to their very end will certainly discover that in the end he will always remain stupid and will have to leave to the Great Spirit those answers that he cannot give himself. Even the most intelligent and courageous of the Papalagi acknowledges this. Even so, most of the thinking-diseased ones cannot let go of the source of their enjoyment and by blindly following the paths of thought they lose their sense of direction like someone going through the jungle where no path has been made. They wear their senses out so much with all this thinking that they can't tell the difference between men and animals any more. They say that man is an animal and that animals are human.
It's even more serious and disastrous that all thoughts, whether good or bad, are immediately thrown onto thin white mats. "They are printed", says the Papalagi. This means that what those ill ones are thinking is written by a mysterious and miraculous machine that has a thousand hands and the strong will of many chiefs. Written not once or twice, but many, many times, an infinite number of times it keeps on writing the same thoughts. Then many of these thought-mats are tied into bunches and pressed together ("books" the Papalagi calls them) and sent to every part of that great country. Very soon, everyone who taakes these thoughts into themselves is infected. They devour these thought-mats as if they were sweet bananas and they are to be found in every hut, with piles of boxes full of them, and young and old gnaw at them like rats gnawing at sugar cane. That is the reason why so few of them are still able to think reasonable, natural thoughts, like those that every honest Samoan has.
In the same way, they shovel as many thoughts as they can into their children's heads. Every day they are forced to swallow a certain quantity of thought mats. Only the healthiest ones reject these thoughts or let them fall through their spirit like through a net. But most of them fill their heads with so many thoughts that there is no space left and no light can enter. This is called "educating the spirit" and the final result of this mess is called "education", and it is a common condition.
"Education" means filling one's head to the brim with knowledge. An educated person knows how long a palm tree is, the weight of a coconut, the names of all his chiefs and when they went to war. He knows the size of the moon, the stars and all the countries. He knows every river by name, every animal and every plant. He knows absolutely everything. Put a question to an educated one and he shoots the answer at you before you have closed your mouth. His head is always loaded with ammunition, always ready to fire. Every European dedicates the most beautiful years of his life to make his head into the fastest possible gun. Anyone who doesn't want to do that is forced to. Every Papalagi has to know, has to think.
The only thing that could cure all the thinking-diseased people is forgetting, chasing thoughts away, but this art is not practiced. Harcly any of them are able tot do this and most of them carry such a burden in their heads that their bodies get tired out and become listless and weak before their time. Should we, their loving, unthinking brothers, after everything I have told you in genuine truth, really imitate the Papalagi and learn to think as he does? I say "No!" because we should not and must not do anything that doesn't make our bodies stronger and doesn't give a greater sense of joy and happiness. We must beware of everything that can rob us the joy of life, of everything that darkens our spirit and takes away its bright light, of everything that will put our heads in conflict with our bodies. The Papalagi shows by his own example that thinking is a serious disease that decreases the value of a man many times.
11. The Severe Disease of Thinking