A man called me and described a virtual firestorm at home. His wife was upset, his son had wrecked the car, and so on. He wanted to know how to handle all these problems.
"You could chase problems 'til you were dead," I said. "So don't chase. Just be the kipuka."
"What?" he asked.
So I explained. Long ago I used to visit the Big Island of Hawaii almost yearly. It's a fascinating juxtaposition of dense rainfall and deadly desert, lush forest and lifeless lava. It all flows--excuse the pun--from the creation of Mauna Loa, the largest volcano on earth, which rises from 19,000 feet below the ocean to almost 14,000 feet above sea level, taller than Mount Everest.
On the southern and western sides of the island the lava flows are recent and have eliminated all evidence of life in many places. Here and there, however, you find relatively elevated places--like islands--that are covered in trees, bamboo, and other plant life, along with a profusion of birds and other animals. These "islands of life" survived the deadly passage of molten rock when the volcano erupted many years before. They are called Kipukas.
Every day we're all surrounded by fear, anger, and contention, which destroy life wherever they flow. We can't stop these attitudes and behaviors in others--we can't stop the lava--but we can choose to be loving and create an island of life, no matter what is going on around us. It's in these kipukas that we thrive and offer sanctuary to others.