July 3, 2020
Aloha, dear friends. ‘Aloha’ means literally ‘I greet you–or take my leave of you–with the breath of life.’ That is a real part of the Hawaiian religion, and not something dreamed up by the Chamber of Commerce. I have returned to Elgin after more that three months of sheltering in place on the Windward Side of the island of Oahu, with wife Deborah. Like you, we did the best we could with staying at home for months. We didn’t have anybody but of the two of us in the flat, until June. Then we had some UU friends over for socially-distanced dinner, made possible by masks and a 4×8 table extension to our table. It seems everybody is weary of the semi-quarantine, and the politics, but most folks are not defying the logic of masks. I don’t know about you, but I’m waiting for the vaccine before discarding any of my precautions.
My time in Hawaii was lovely. It’s always a pleasure to arrive and be hit with a scented breeze walking the open-air distance from airplane to terminal. I liked Hawaii immediately, in 1970, when I was Rev. Jim Stoll’s lieutenant in the drive to get the UUA to sign on to a non-discrimination statement regarding ‘homosexual and bisexual people’ at General Assembly in Seattle. It passed. First one such in U.S. history.
I spent my free time walking everywhere, and since we had as a tour guide a young University student who was also active in the sole Unitarian Church on the Islands. From her I learned the simple pronunciation rules, and the special words, like ‘aina,’ meaning, ‘the land,’ and ‘mahalo,’ which means ‘thank you,’ and most especially ‘kuleana,’ which means one’s personal responsibilities, to other people, and to the aina, and the kai (sea), and to whatever care of someone or some thing one is interested in taking on. All the words have a religious or nature-based origin meaning, and people who come and stay, absorb the spirit. It’s a peaceful spirit that helps people behave better. Sounding your vehicle’s horn in anger or impatience is frowned on. People routinely defer to others, slow down, stop, allow another car to exit their driveway. Even in crowded Honolulu there is respect for everyone. It helps that dozens of Pacific rim and island chain peoples compose much of the population. I have a poem about what it’s like to be a ‘haole,’ a sometimes derogatory term for person of European descent. The word means ‘someone lacking the ‘breath of life.” That is, the person has no ‘aloha.’ I have never personally heard it used in the derogatory sense.
I will put on a Service about Hawaii and its religion some time later this year. Mahalo aloha.