Let’s say that you are going to travel by double-hulled canoe over 2741 miles of open ocean, and that you are not absolutely certain that you will actually hit land! So, in the canoe you carry people, water, food to eat on the way, seeds to plant for more food later as well as breadfruit and taro plants to supplement your diet of fish in your hoped-for home. You also take tools, pigs and chickens. That canoe becomes a closed society in which all are responsible for the life in the canoe. You learn to treat the others with respect… or you swim. Food is limited so the mindset that the trip generates in the travelers is “Take what you need, but not more than that.” Out of this trip came Hawaiian values: O’hana, known as “family”, but more importantly the awareness of being connected to others. And out of that awareness grew kuleana, known as “responsibility”, but more importantly… that one has an obligation to be good and righteous in dealings with others.
I would hazard a guess that few of us wonder, when we are setting off on a road-trip or running to catch a flight, about how that trip might change us? Generally, we expect to come back home as the same person who left on the trip. When I took my first trip to Hawaii in June of 2004 the “me” who returned to Rincon, GA was definitely not the one who left on that trip! I had not really expected anything from that trip, but upon landing I was ambushed by the beauty of scent and the seductiveness of the Tradewinds upon my skin. As I became exposed to Hawaiian values I had the sudden intuition that I was “home”!
It has been said about Chef Massimo Bottura, “One of the most important ingredients in his food is memory. It’s the memory of the way things were made and taking those memories and re-interpreting them.” What those two weeks in Hawaii made so clear to me is that it is the inheritance of canoe memories which have been passed on which make Hawaii so unique! Those memories, and the traditions and customs which came out of them… which encapsulate them and pass them on… those memories are the bedrock of Hawaiian values!
In Hawaii it is believed once a name is given that the thing/person/place becomes itself. It was in Hawaii that a local wahine revealed to me that my Hawaiian title and name is Kahuna-pule Kimo, now shortened to Kahu Kimo. It was in Hawaii that I was adopted into the Harvest O’hana and given the name Kinohi, which (as I understand it) means genesis, or beginning. Nothing could be more appropriate since it was upon landing in Hawaii that I had a sense of beginning, a sense of becoming myself!
A Non-Islander, when offered a breath mint, might refuse it, thinking to himself “I don’t need one.” A traveler in the canoe would take the mint, thinking, “What if others need me to have one?” This is Aloha!