In speaking about themselves and Hawaiʻi I have heard Hawaiians say that “the Earth is a canoe“, “Hawaiʻi is a canoe”, and “our neighborhood is a canoe”. The implication of this is that we are each called to live responsibly for the welfare and benefit of all in the canoe. I think at the heart of this awareness lies the difference between Hawaiʻi and the Mainland. Find the common denominator of the following words: Shopaholic, alcoholic, rageaholic, purgeaholic, bingeaholic, sexaholic, drugaholic, relationshipaholic. The suffix “aholic” signifies both something that we take refuge in as well as something which possesses us and holds us hostage.
There are an almost unlimited number of things that we can take an unhealthy refuge in. It has been observed by professionals who deal with victims of the various -aholic “isms” that what seems to be common to all of the individuals is a desire to not feel what distresses them and to be able to run from dealing with those feelings. We all have those feelings because Life is filled with hard choices! But a healthy psychological, emotional, and spiritual life requires that we develop the ability to see beyond the immediacy of our choices, to be able to see what roads those choices will take us down and to realize where those choices will bring us. So what do we do with individuals in our “canoe” whose choices have made them captives of those choices?
I came across the following Hawaiian saying: “Pupukahi i holomua”. The translation given for the saying was “Unite to move forward”. The explanation of the translation was “By working together we make progress”. This saying is especially applicable to Hawaiians in their canoes where each paddler has to pull their paddles together in order to make the canoe move quickly forward. A Mainland approach to our sister and brother “aholics” with the business world’s “Every person for themselves” would be to leave them to fend for themselves. It seems to me that with Hawaiʻi ’s inculcated values of Aloha, ʻOhana , and Kuleana that Hawaiians would not just dump someone overboard when they are unable to paddle with the rest. Rather, they would find a way to help them paddle!
At least I hope that’s true! It is so easy for us to distance ourselves from one another, as evidenced by relationships between countries all around the world. It’s also much more “costly” for us to care about others. But if Hawaiians stop showing us how to care about others then there’s little hope for the rest of the world!