Everywhere on the beaches in Hawaiʻi, I have seen families the size of church congregations gathered for the weekend… any weekend!… under series of interconnected tents. From the tents come the smell of food cooking, the sound of music and singing, the shrieks of keiki, the admonitions of kupuna and Aunties and Uncles. It is clear to me that Hawaiʻi is ʻOhana, family. For a Hawaiian to become estranged from their ʻOhana is to be separated from Hawaiʻi.
Our inner life is fueled by relationships with others but especially by ʻOhana relationships. Sometimes it is easier to detach from our ʻOhana than to deal with difficult ʻOhana relationships. The problem is that for the Hawaiian this withdrawal, a refusal to relate to others in the family produces a rupture in the heart and soul that gives birth to various abuses as ways of trying to cope with the pain of that separation.
What do the soul and the heart need in order to flourish? Relationships with others. After all when we are born we are immediately thrust into relationships. This marks our psyche with the knowledge that others outside us are as necessary for us as air and food. When we become adults it is up to us to breathe for ourselves and to engage in relationships that feed us. For a Hawaiian this especially means ʻOhana relationships, no matter how difficult those relationships might be. Neglect of our heart’s inner life is a form of abuse. It produces scars as surely as any belt strap or fist. As adults our unhappiness… or rather the abuse of our happiness… is up to us.