My favorite flower is white ginger.It has delicate white blossoms that pack a wallop of a scent. When woven into a lei, the wearer can sit next to the hygienically challenged and not even know it – like a halo of perfumed drapery, wear it near your nose, you will not be sorry.
My favorite Hawaiian cultural story is the word “Aloha” – the “Ha” is pronounced with a healthy exhalation – Alo means I give to you – so literally, they are saying, I give you breath. That is why it means both hello and goodbye – it is neither – it is sharing of life between two humans. We think they are “nose-kissing” when in fact they are exchanging breath, becoming one being wishing life and survival to each other. Mouth to mouth resuscitation is the closest we Europeans have come to this mutual blessing, but it is only offered to the nearly dead. You can survive many days without food or water, but if breathing ceases, it is a matter of minutes. And the time between now and a maskless future goes slowly, most of us helping where and whom we can. The maskless future where we can kiss and breathe and our faces can be smooshed together, embracing with abandon once again.
There is no property in most native world views. It is rather ridiculous to think any one human can “own” land. It is ever-changing, especially in Hawaii where the lava flows add acres every year. In the Great Mahele – the first land and title codification in Hawaii, the plots were not drawn in straight lines – the islands were sliced like a pie. Because everybody knows the hills alone cannot support a nutritious diet, just as oceanfront property can offer only fish. We call the Hawaiian “royalty” kings and queens, but they own nothing – no visitor is allowed to go hungry, and after being offered to the Chieftain first, all food is shared in the luau.
The Hawaiians, like the Eskimo and Native Americans, were nearly wiped out by the white man’s diseases. And then a monotheistic manifest destiny that placed anyone of darker skin into the roles of sub humans, swooped in to kill thousands more. A mis-reading of the original Aramaic lead them to believe that instead of being good stewards, those who believed in the Lord would “subdue the earth… have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air” (Genesis 1:28). Anyone who has witnessed an erupting volcano knows with great certainty that we humans cannot “subdue the earth”.
And there were great warriors, tribes fought among tribes – but there is a big difference between warfare and total annihilation. When the missionaries came, they banned the hula, banned carved statues of gods, banned the use of the Hawaiian language. The great King David Kalakaua, embraced both Christianity and the native Hawaiian traditions, and restored the dance and chants. Emmalani, who was Queen before him, built many hospitals and was central to halting the decimation of her people. If it wasn’t for them, I would not know the word “Aloha”, and the giving of breath from one to another would have never become my favorite greeting.
Catherine G. Tripp, Writer/Investor a lifelong mix. Left brain and right brain battle for dominance. I wrote the marketing materials for my mortgage brokerage, had a personal finance column at Examiner.com, wrote essays, short stories and poems published in school papers and magazines then literary journals. If my writings were a color, they would be yellow, bright as sunlight, highlighting the salient portions, not obscuring the past but deconstructing air brushed stories, finding humor and courage in the unloved corners.
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