I have always been fascinated by the jewels, crowns and tiaras of various sovereigns of Russia (the completely diamond-encrusted crown of Catherine the Great being the knock-out example!), Bulgaria, Italy and especially Great Britain. The Metropolitan Museum in New York City once was hosting a Byzantium Show to which our monastery traveled. At the same time as the Byzantium exhibit was a show of fabulous jewels from around the world… I couldn’t resist and left the Byzantium Show and spent a long time lost in the glitter of the Jewels Show! I must admit that this is an odd obsession for a monk whose whole lifestyle is one of renunciation but for me that show made me feel like a starving kid staring through the windows of a bakery! Perhaps I will someday understand this odd attraction!
On my 2010 trip to Hawaii I was able to go to the Iolani Palace and the Bishop Museum. At both I saw various jewel-encrusted items of the Hawaiian Kingdom, of course all of which I found fascinating! But the more that I have come to know Hawaiians and their culture I have come to the conclusion that the real jewels, the real treasure of the Hawaiian Kingdom is its people, its culture and its traditions! All these are rooted in profound respect for others, for the land, for the Divine. And Respect is something sorely missing from Mainland culture!
Mainland school shootings, workplace shootings and drive-by shootings are all rooted in a lack of respect for others. Many magazines popular in Mainland culture specialize in rumor and innuendo, both of which are manifestations of a basic disrespect towards others. The lack of common etiquette in Mainland restaurants, stores and public spaces is the fruit of the current culture of narcissism. One of my pet peeves concerning disrespect is that of presumed intimacy when, after having introduced myself as Fr. James, the person responds by calling me “Jim”!!
An eye-opener for me in Hawaii is the way in which a younger person addresses those older than himself as either “Auntie” or “Uncle”. Until I caught on to the fact that this is a cultural expression of respect for those older than oneself I kept wondering why there were so many people around me who all seemed to be related!! In an important way they are! They are all members of the Hawaiian Family! The Hawaiian definition of family is a net cast much, much wider than on the Mainland. Hawaii’s real jewels… its people, its culture and its traditions are so rooted in an orientation necessary for living an authentic spiritual life that I can hardly wait for June 2019 when I can move there and be called “Uncle”!