ALO= to be in the presence of, face to face, to join, to combine with. HA= the essence, the life, the breath of life. In the end Aloha means relationships: face-to-face, the birthing of life-fullness within those relationships. Which leads me to wonder about those in Hawaii who don’t seem to have relationships which give them life: the homeless.
Behind my “Hawaiian Memories” piece entitled “Aloha, Luau, Ohana, Hale” was my wondering about the state of the homeless in Hawaiʻi; the divorce between the Hawaiian concept of “belonging” and the “dispossessed”. On every one of my five trips to Hawaiʻi the homeless seemed to be everywhere: sleeping on tables in parks, tents so abundant on streets that one had to step into the road to get around them, crazed and ragged individuals at bus stops who did not call to mind the nobility of Hawaiian culture! They made me wonder about the state of homelessness in Hawaiʻi and about Hawaiʻi’s response to these, its awkward children.
Aloha, as I understand it, is being in right relationship with all peoples and all things. It is the opposite of the self-centeredness so promoted by western culture. And yet, despite the homeless, everywhere I went in Hawaiʻi I was met constantly with instances of kindness, concern, respect and care for me. Clearly, homelessness in Hawaiʻi, in a culture which so values ʻohana and kuleana so deeply, seems to be an oxymoron! And yet it exists. What do we make of that?
The homeless situation is a complicated one! There are homeless who prefer to be so in order to avoid the expenses of rent, electricity, water, responsibilities, etc. And then there are homeless who suffer from psychological illnesses which do not enable them to care for themselves. A confusing paradox for a tourist: Paradise, and children of that paradise who don’t seem to belong to it!
It occurs to me that Aloha is, in the end, not what we say about it but the way in which we live. What does this have to do with my artwork? I don’t know. I only know that I find the homeless in Hawaii a puzzling question for me: in the midst of a culture which holds respect and relationships in so high a regard, to whom do the homeless belong? When I move there in June 2019 to whom will I belong?