One of the aspects about Hawaiian culture which I think is so profound is of O’hana, the understanding that “family” means more than just parents and siblings, the understanding that the tentacles of Hawaiian family-ness can stretch out and embrace hundreds. Non-Hawaiian culture on the other hand is now largely characterized by detachment from others. In today’s Mainland world many families no longer even eat together. If they do eat together children are allowed to focus on texting at the table instead of talking with others. Cell calls are taken during the meal thereby yanking the individual away from the family even while sitting at the same table. Even though we now have the tools to be connected with everyone, anywhere we no longer know how to be present to those even in the same room.
This chronic cultural detachment manifests itself by a confusing sense of emptiness as if there is a hole within whose unknown-ness threatens to suck our entire life into itself. I would propose that this “emptiness” is actually a presence… the presence of the Divine who transcends anything that our theological words might try to say about it. Emptiness is that deep place within us of feeling our aloneness which is actually a meeting-place where we can encounter the Divine. But in order to meet the Divine we have to be present at the meeting. Being present, to anything, is the problem of our age! We hardly know how to sit still, how to be quiet, how to not rush from task to task! The only thing absent from that meeting-place within is us! We need to show up in our relationship with the Divine in that emptiness within ourselves since a lived spiritual life requires that we be present to Life. Being present to our inner life has to do with prayer (not to be confused with saying prayers) but that is a topic for another blog.
On every trip to Hawaiʻi I have observed whole clans on the beaches in clusters of tents, entire families just being together for the weekend, being present to each other as if being together is enough. The Hawaiians seem to have a genius for being present to the life afforded them by each day! This is an excellent model for our life with the Divine within! Being present together is enough!