When visitors arrive at the museum, the first thing they see are security officers standing guard, and then they see them vigilantly patrolling the galleries, silent overseers of our artwork and acting as mobile information kiosks. But they’re not just men and women in uniform—like the rest of the staff, many have arts backgrounds and diverse interests (at least two security officers have gone on to become professional artists and art teachers).

Ramu Hooker, who has been with the museum since 2007, is one of security’s renaissance men. To see him gliding through the halls wearing his blue-tinted shades and kufi hat, you might not guess that he has a degree in computer science or training in martial arts, including Japanese Kodokan Judo, karate, kung fu, tai chi and the Javanese martial art Tetada Kalimasada. With that knowledge base, he offers training in self-defense techniques to the rest of the security staff.

Sitting with Ramu in the museum’s peaceful Palm Courtyard, just as the late-afternoon crowd was dwindling down, I also discovered that Ramu has dedicated himself to intensive studies in Buddhism and meditation. For several years, he conducted a radio talk show named The Cosmic Connection in homage to Carl Sagan. His work at the museum has led to another creative outlet—writing poetry, which he has shared at two recent staff talent shows that he helped organize. At his last performance, Ramu also demonstrated his talent on the keyboard while delivering his lyrical lines.

Poetry “just started happening,” says Ramu. “I was inspired by some of the artwork here, and I just started writing. I used to do a lot of automatic writing, intuitive impressions, and I’ve been getting a lot since I have been here.” When we met, Ramu came prepared with a stack of poems (see a selection connected to museum art below). Equal parts whimsy and philosophy, his poems are all signed simply “Ramu,” which visually heightens an ideological connection they tend to share with the Sufi poet Rumi.

In addition to the inspiration Ramu finds in the galleries, he also finds a sense of nostalgia. “My favorite gallery is the Arts of Hawai‘i gallery,” he says. “I like the nature scenes there, and especially the Hawaiian Fisherman, with the Hawaiian guy ready to throw his net. That rock and area looks very familiar. I believe I stood on that point before in Hana, Maui. I am not sure if that particular one is there, but it looks exactly like it.” When Ramu first moved to the islands from Washington State in 1982, he lived on Maui. “When I was there, I had a Hawaiian man teach me how to throw the nets,” he added, explaining how this piece adds to that memory.

Ramu retired from the computer science field, and now plans to stay with his second career for as long as possible. “After I retired I decided that this would be a good opportunity. I wouldn’t have to work full-time, and it gives me something to do. I like the museum and the art is inspiring. The best part is seeing all the people who come in from all over the world.”

Three poems by Ramu:

Memories

Some artists and photographers attempt to
capture the essence of a person, place or thing.
This is impossible to do, like a note impossible to sing.
Memories do capture events as you keep changing with time.
Life as you know it from moment to moment is never the same.
Pictures of the past events, family, friends, or self
only reflect those moments in time.
Today time is rushing past rapidly into the future “Now”
As memories fade away.
It’s all part of the game.

More is Less

Flying Seeds
Tumbling Weeds
Stampedes
Human Needs
Transparent Dress
Dressed to Impress
Less is More
More is Less

When the Lion Speaks

When a Lion speaks, we should listen
because we will hear the intelligence
within the loud sound. This may save
your life and keep your feet on the ground.