HOW TO BE HAWAIIAN
DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
A man from Hawaii who lives in Oregon misses Hawaii dearly because he has for some reason not returned for a dozen years. He believes he is no more than fifteen-percent native Hawaiian, yet that percentage is tugging at his heart. To that I said his home is where his heart is wherever he may be, and if his heart is in Hawaii, then so is he, just as Zion is wherever a Jew might be.
I myself am not descended from the Polynesians who originally inhabited the Sandwich Islands, now called Hawaii, the name of the biggest island, an island I grew to love most of all when I lived there.
There is something about Hawaii, its Aloha or loving spirit, its Ea or rising spirit, constantly chanting for our return wherever we may be. My father said he met people from Hawaii during and after the WWII, and that every one of them longed to return. Some not killed in the war stayed on the Mainland afterwards because they found work there and married, but “they always longed for Hawaii with tears in their eyes,” he said.
If you have had the real Hawaii experience, you can leave Hawaii, but Hawaii will never leave you. Part of you is always Hawaiian whether or not Polynesian blood runs in your veins.
The being of Hawaii is heartfelt although it is not clearly defined. It does need to be clarified because Hawaii, despite its reputation for happy-go-lucky natives strumming ukuleles and tolerant multiculturalism, is troubled by underlying historical issues evident in the current politics of resentment.
Suffice it to say that history is a mistake, for otherwise improvement would be impossible. The people who love Hawaii suffer an identity crisis, a special occasion of the underlying crisis or hypocrisis between actual existence and ideal being. The islands await the return of Lono to reconcile the differences, in Being Hawaiian.
“Don’t ever leave Hawaii,” a tourist at Kealakekua warned me. But I left Kona and the woman I loved and I flew to Manhattan because I thought my life was almost over and that there was something crucial that I was supposed to do on the Mainland. I learned that I was a fool for leaving Hawaii to suffer a new beginning in New York, and I have no regrets for the lessons learned. One day I passed by a temple on West 86th Street, and noticed a sign announcing regular classes: HOW TO BE JEWISH.
Now there should be a regular class starting in Hawaii: HOW TO BE HAWAIIAN. We would find the usual cultural courses, but something besides the regular offerings to tourists, although tourists would be welcome to participate in learning, for example, how to make two hundred leis for the luau, chant a positive affirmation with a hula, grow kalo and make poi, speak some pidgin, deconstruct and reconstruct a heiau, unload frozen tuna at the docks, and learn the real reason why one should not forget to put an `okina in front of the word `okina, and so on.
Yes, something even higher is needed, a ritual that ascends to the spirituality of being Hawaiian, and even to mystical unification with Being-in-itself in a nondenominational, climactic reconciliation of all organic differences.
Needless to say, everyone regardless of race, gender, creed, and national origin would be eligible for Being Hawaiian. Kahunas would provide the requisite courses and issue certificates throughout the world. There would be no Hawaii residency requirement, especially since it would be impossible for all Hawaiians to fit into Hawaii at any one time. Yet one pilgrimage to Hawaii every five years, or such time period that would not result in overcrowding, would be recommended if not required to maintain Being Hawaii status.
Being Hawaiian is a state of mind grounded in our feeling for Hawaii. We shall never forget Hawaii, wherever we may be, because Hawaii is with us, wherever we are.