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Living aloha is alive and well here

By Staff | Oct 22, 2015

Bishop Museum in Honolulu has a display that asks, “What is Aloha?”

LAHAINA – When you author a forthcoming book titled “Voices of Aloha,” you better have a pretty good idea of what aloha is. Many have written about aloha and assigned words like love or compassion, but few have written from the heart.

The must-see Bishop Museum in Honolulu has a display that asks, “What is Aloha?”

People who name streets in Seattle like aloha, too, and named a street after it.

A Maui letter writer noted the other day that there is no aloha anymore. Wrong. Aloha is alive and well in West Maui (with some exceptions, like the Hawaiian who once blasted me with four-letter words for taking “his” parking space).

Over the years, this writer has come to view aloha in a very personal way, embracing it over time as much as possible (perhaps with occasional lapses), asking Native Hawaiians for their own views, doing a little research.

Find below the opening essay of “Voices of Aloha Beyond the Beach,” which capitalizes the word throughout to celebrate its importance.

REMARKABLE VOICES OF ALOHA – You have heard it as a luau begins, at music venues, at ice cream parlors and ABC Stores. You have heard it as a three-syllable word: “ALOHA.” And you hear some simply pronounce it “ALOHA,” most likely in one breath. Either way, ALOHA is not an affectation. It is real. Despite the popular bumper sticker, ALOHA is not practiced. It is lived and comes from within.

ALOHA is empathy for others that resides in the heart, and it can be acquired naturally if given a chance. ALOHA can take the form of a smile, a friendly manner or an act of kindness. Growing up in Hawaii in cherished na ‘ohana (family groups), Hawaiians learn ALOHA by example in youth and see it flourish in adulthood. Newcomers can become persons of ALOHA, too, and many do.

ALOHA is an acquired approach to living available to those of us who live here who are passionate about Hawaii, to newcomers, and to visitors who catch the spirit.

ALOHA, however, isn’t automatic. There are some Hawaiians (those with Hawaiian blood) who find the concept of ALOHA alien.

ALOHA is subject to many interpretations. Duke Kahanamoku, the six-time Olympic swimming champion and Hawaii ambassador, wrote: “In Hawaii, we greet friends, loved ones and strangers with ALOHA, which means love. ALOHA is the key word to the universal spirit of real hospitality that makes Hawaii renowned as the world’s center of understanding and fellowship. Try meeting or greeting people with ALOHA. You will be surprised by their reaction. I believe it and it is my creed. ALOHA to you.”

Kupuna Pilahasii Pak wrote in the 1970s that “ALOHA is the God-like spirit endowed to all human beings from their birth. ALOHA spirit is the coordination of mind and heart. You must think and emote good feelings to others.”

In ALOHA, Pak wrote, “A” stands for Akahai, meaning kindness to be expressed with tenderness; “L” stands for Lokahi, meaning to be expressed with harmony; “O” stands for ‘Olu’olu, meaning agreeable to be expressed with pleasantness; “H” stands for Ha’aha’a, meaning humility to be expressed with modesty; and “A” stands for Ahonui, meaning patience to be expressed with perseverance.

Pastor Laki Ka’ahumanu is also fond of saying that there would be no ALOHA without Hawaiians. The good news is you can find ALOHA without even looking for it. ALOHA is just one of many of the island’s gifts to the world.

Yet there is a different take on ALOHA.

One kupuna, whose ancestors go way back here, makes the point that ALOHA was in the beginning not a Hawaiian concept at all, although many Hawaiians have embraced it and made it their own.

The thinking is that ALOHA is a term introduced by the missionaries in a religious context – in the sense that being kind to others is what they preached – and ALOHA is an expression of the act of being kind.

Come to think of it, Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) could not have invented the word “ALOHA,” since they had no alphabet. And who created the alphabet? The missionaries.

No matter what its origin is, ALOHA endures in the culture. And truly, it is one of the special things that distinguishes Hawaii from the rest of the world.