In 2004 we went to Magic Island for the fireworks show on the Fourth of July. Without any reservation I can say that it was the most spectacular fireworks show that I have ever seen! It was the magical end to my first two-week visit to the Islands! At the end of the show everyone left at the same time, so the traffic was horrendous! Since our car was making such slow progress I had the time to notice the cars around us, and the car in front of us had a bumper-sticker which read, “Welcome to Hawaiʻi. Now go home.” So how’s that for Aloha?!
Having lived in a monastery well-known for its German Shepherd dog-breeding program and therefore inundated by dog-lovers as well as religious pilgrims, I can fully understand Hawaii’s ambivalence towards guests! For the guests it’s vacation time! For Hawaiians…and monks… it’s more work! In the monastery I was the Guestmaster for eighteen years and I can tell you that guests take work… as is hinted at by the old saying, “Guests, like fish, stink after three days.”
It is not only Hawaiʻi and dog-breeding monks who have to deal with the issue of inner dividedness. I think that many people experience an inner conflict in today’s pressure-cooker world! On the one hand you want to be good and do good, and on the other… especially when tired or frustrated… you don’t want to give a damn!
And yet, the ability to choose, to make choices despite circumstances, is one characteristic of human maturity. Spirituality is the essence of what it means to be human. Spiritual life is defined and expressed by how we treat foreigners, the homeless, the elderly, the forgotten and one another. The spiritual gift that Hawaiʻi gives to the world, I think is its understanding about Hā: what we have received as a complete and unasked-for gift is not fully itself until it has been given away to others… no matter how we feel.
Goodness is a choice, something deliberate. A mark of spiritual maturity is the ability to choose to breathe goodness upon others even when we don’t want to give a damn!