The Meaning of Aloha

Most folks do not realize the very spiritual measure of the Soul that is Aloha and that lives within us all. If we were able to gauge what it is that lives within us each, we would have no reason for war because we would be too busy being good to one another. 

I make no secret of it that I am a very proud Hawaiian, in every way possible that there is to be so. I grew up in Southern California, was raised by two island born parents and was surrounded by everything that was culturally and ethnically mine. Sadly, there are a lot of Hawaiian people who do not realize that they are not living the way of Aloha, are too busy carrying the hatreds of the past which were that of our Ancestors. While I will never ever tell another soul that what the Aumakua went through was right, and never tell anyone that “it was business – you understand,” when it comes to how those islands were procured, I will tell anyone who asks me that while our Ancestors had every reason to be that angry with the people who came from everywhere else, and yes, we indeed do have a struggle to maintain what is ethnically and rightfully ours, collectively, I cannot be one who will further the hatreds that have gone on too long already.

So, rather than sit here and rant and rave about the atrocities which were placed upon us, forced upon our last reigning monarch, Queen Liliuokalani Paki, I will, instead, tell you all what a precious thing it is to be Maoli, to be part of a people whose mission in life it is to share the energy that is “Aloha.”

It is way more than just a reason to wear a silly, flowered shirt to the office on Friday

Aloha. The word conjures in the minds of the many images of ugly flowered shirts with really, really ugly parrots on them. It conjures the images of these very shirts being worn by tourists wearing tube socks and sandals, of little kids whose sunscreen matches their teeny tiny bathing suits and slippahs (flip flops, guys…we call them ‘slippahs’), of hula dancers, of the beach and of too many Mai-Tais.

Yet, for someone like me, the word “Aloha,” means so very much more, much more than anyone who is not Maoli (it means “Native”) could imagine. It is the very soul of the Hawai’ian people, is the thing that we are most noted for and is the one thing that, above all, I like to believe that, aside of the differences that some of us has with the rest of the world of non-Maolis, we know the importance of this thing called “Aloha.”  The word Aloha can be broken down into two parts. Understand now that Hawaiian words have many different meanings, even though the word might be the same thing. The word “Alo,” in one definition, means “presence,” and “ha”, means “breath.” When I think about it in those terms, it is an awesome thing to know that such a short word, even as it is so very exotic, is so simple in nature and means “the presence of breath.”

If a person has breath in them, it means that they have life in them. In order to be alive, even technically so, there must be a presence of breath. So, in those terms, when we are thinking about the word “Aloha,” we are talking about the presence of Life, and how so very important and nice it is that right this moment, if you are reading this, you are experiencing the Presence of Breath that is Aloha, literally and technically, and paradoxically even metaphorically.  When I used to hear other people say the word “Aloha” to me, it used to bother me, and it did so because after that greeting, it was like I became sort of a novelty. To make things more clear to myself, I started reading about everything “Aloha.”

Understand right now that everything that you would hear come out of a Hawaiian person’s mouth, for the most part, is about pride in our people, in our struggles, in ourselves. And we look around us at all this turmoil that is from the past, that came from somewhere else, because no way could such things come from such a lovely, lovely group of people. We look at each other, and already we know one another. There are yet plenty of us who still hang onto the hurts from the past, hurts that are not personally or privately ours, but collectively, is a hurt that we feel together.

It is not, though, a hurt that has divided us – those days are over. Now we know the importance of the meaning, not only the one in words in a book, but more the thing that is part of us all. We also know that no matter what, we cannot be divided by the hurts of the past, and that all we can do is to Be who we are and try hard to not live back there anymore, so that in the energy of Lokahi, of Unity, we can move ahead to the future.

Because we know,this is why this is being written. I was cleaning up a mess that needed to be looked at and came across my very worn copy of the Hawaiian Dictionary. I don’t look at these things so that I can speak, but so that I can understand things about the meaning of certain words. I have had the luck of being part of the generation of Hawaiians who, yes, grew up in homes here on the mainland, by parents who were brought up in Hawai’i, who brought with them the traditions that they were meant to pass on to us. They did not have the same advances that we have, and with everything in them, taught us, showed us, all of us, that we have to understand and accept our Kuleana, our responsibility to the future generations of Hawaiians, of Humans, that they have to live on this big rock together, so why not work that way?

Eh…’auhea wale ana ‘oe – pay attention, yeah?

The word “Aloha,” is composed of 5 letters. These five letters are what two other words are made of – “alo,” or presence, and “ha,” meaning breath. How amazing it is to me that these five little letters carry so much weight, so very much importance. And here we are, fighting with each other as though we have really much else to depend on. If we knew just exactly how it is that things which seem insignificant are as important as are things which are big and demand our immediate attention.  For me to sit here, just at home, on a Friday night, listening to the rain as it hits the windows, the wind as it is howling outside, throwing the world around like an angry child would a ragdoll…and think about this one little word, and why, forever and ever now, it has haunted me, has left me breathless and never thought about why until now.

It’s because we are the embodiment of those very five letters, all lined up next to each other, making sense, but not, and at the same time, being all the paradox that it is meant to be.  I sit here sometimes, listening to the music that lilted softly in the background of the childhood that seems so far behind but really, is not. It reminds me of all those things that, when we are little kids, we are awestruck by the simplest things, things that, as adults, most of us just pass off as something that we enjoyed as children but that now we are just to damned cool to even smile about.

I think about all the things that were cool about me being a kid, about my own “small keed time,” and the whole time, no matter what, I always felt this underlying current that is so now and so prevalent and so real to a whole lot of Hawaiians. We know that it is ours to pass to our kids, not only the things that pissed us all off in the past about the very distant past, but how we each, collectively and privately, swore to ourselves, out loud, and to them, as they each lay waiting quietly, still in the Womb, that each and everyday of their little lives, they would know not only what the technical meaning of the word “Aloha” means, but more, what the truth in the meaning of it is.

As I sit here writing this, my daughter, Gracie, is again, creating some sort of culinary delight. In the background, as she works, she is singing along to the likes of Keali’i Reichel’s rendition of Kananaka, and reminding me of the times we spent rehearsing “He mele no ka uhinilele” (The Cricket Song) with all of her friends. This child with the talent for cooking is doing what I did when I was a kid – she is talking to her mother about all those times when she remembers how cool it is to be a kid who is part of the Soul of Aloha, how cool it is that she spent her time, thus far, being who she is, but not ever being too far away from who I will always know her to be.

This, folks, is what is the proof of Aloha, of that thing that we have, not only as far as being Hawaiian goes -but this for ALL of us , been entrusted with by the very Universe.

We were sent here to perpetuate that which is the Soul of Aloha.

The background music…it really doesn’t matter.

Okay. It does haha.

Yup…all that from just thinking about a word that is also two words but is only five letters long. Wow lau lau.

Aloha Kakou…yes! It does !

…it means I LOVE YOU ALL !



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