Aloha: More Than a Word

aloha from sunset at waimea pier

I’m not one to go explaining things as if I know it all.  I don’t pretend to be one of those people who thinks they have something figured out, or that a timeline for having local knowledge is anything less than a lifetime.  After all I’ve only lived in Hawaii for not quite a year.  But along that time I have come to know something truly and deeply, so much that if I were to pack up and leave tomorrow, never to return, it would stay with me for the rest of my life.  I’m speaking of Aloha.

Living next to a beach resort, I meet visitors every day from all over the place.  Many have a preconceived notion of what Hawaiian life is all about.  The tourism commercials and literature have seemed to convince people that saying “Aloha” to someone is akin to saying hello and goodbye.  While this is partially true in that the word is said both in greetings and farewells, it undervalues the entire concept altogether.

I am only speaking from limited experience here.  I still have much to learn and humbly submit my experience to my elders for scrutiny, but hopefully they will see my intentions as a simple quest for truth, and in turn to share that mined truth with others.  Which is this:  Aloha is not something you say. It is something that you live.  It’s a philosophy – one that I believe is core to all humanity, but the Polynesian culture simply wove it into the fabric of their daily life through common language.

Aloha (Or Aroha in Maori – the word is used across Polynesia) is the term for the inexplicable bond we all should have with one another.  Somewhere along the way western society lost track of that.

So what does it mean, exactly?  What does it really mean? When people ask me that question I simply tell them that they need to feel it for themselves.  Because anyone who comes here – even the most bus-bound, never-leaves-waikiki, pasty-white, socks-in-birkenstocks type tourist feels it.  It’s in the air.  And the sea. and through the mana of the land (that’s another post altogether).

Essentially, Aloha is all about the love.  What that means is that whomever you come across, you will treat them in a manner fit for what they need.  Not to say that you are to judge them, but you will show respect and the assumption that we are all here to have a good time.

Sometimes people don’t reciprocate good tidings of joy.  And that’s why certain times the attitude in Hawaii can sometimes feel abrasive.  But most times, those receiving the abrasion deserve it.  And that’s why you may hear the saying that

“aloha goes both ways”.

But if you come to the islands, maybe before saying “Aloha” to every person you cross paths with, try to pay attention to the times when the locals use it.  You’ll see that the casual greeting will more often be “howzit?” You’ll see that “Aloha” is most often used in a sincere manner, after making a connection.  Because at the end of the day we all have Aloha within us, but the difference is if you demonstrate it through actions before words.

Words do carry weight – and “Aloha” is one of the heaviest hitters out there if you use it properly.

And on that note, I’ll simply bid you Aloha 🙂