Aloha. Bonjour. Buenos Dias. Kon’nichiwa. Privet.
All translations for Hello, right? Trying to be enlightened tourists, we will learn as much local language as we can, so we use Aloha frequently in our greetings here. But in fact, Aloha is so much more. It more closely translates as the Indian “Namaste” than the English “Hello.”
Namaste does not translate directly to English, but the meaning I have most subscribed to is:“The divine in me honors the divine in you.” Not exactly equivalent to “Heya.”
The true meaning of Aloha is similar to this. It is made up of two Hawaiian words: “Alo” meaning “in the presence of” and “Ha” meaning “breath of life.” Therefore, it is less hello and more “to be in the presence of divinity.” Wow.
Its history is derived from the Hawaiian ritual where two people greet each other by pressing noses and inhaling at the same time, sharing a breath and the spirit between them. This Hawaiian Kiss is similar to the New Zealand Maori way of greeting by touching foreheads, a nod to the common roots of the South Pacific cultures.
I love this. It honors the interaction of people as more than transactional or self-centered passing of bodies as we get on with our own lives. It honors that we are all in this together and their journey is tied to my journey, even if our meeting is fleeting.
One of the benefits of this trip is that we will find this all over the world. I already learned that in France, for example, it is customary and polite to always (always!) say “Bonjour” to the shopkeeper when entering a store. You are entering their space, their “home,” and it is incredibly rude to do so without acknowledging the occupant. This French custom fits the Aloha Spirit, so we have already begun routinely shopping here with Aloha and Mahalo (thank you) upon entering and leaving, even if we were there briefly and didn’t buy anything. I noticed Lucas did it naturally while shopping the other day and was so impressed how he had picked it up with no direction.
This is so different than how we are used to going about our business in mainland USA. I often prefer to slip in discreetly, complete my task then leave without notice. Even friendly people usually keep their heads down and move independently through the America. Very transactionally. But this is not the Hawaiian way.
I know that there is so much more about Aloha Spirit that I need to learn. It truly is a way of being, rather than a greeting. Aloha International (www.huna.org) describes an early teaching of Aloha like this:
Aloha is being a part of all, and all being a part of me. When there is pain - it is my pain. When there is joy - it is also mine. I respect all that is as part of the Creator and part of me. I will not willfully harm anyone or anything. When food is needed I will take only my need and explain why it is being taken. The earth, the sky, the sea are mine to care for, to cherish and to protect. This is Hawaiian - this is Aloha!
Lovely. Enviable. Worth striving for.
I have seen several bumper stickers encouraging me to “Live Aloha.” I would like to spend the next three months practicing that and then bringing it with me on the rest of the trip. I probably won’t try and scare strangers by greeting everyone with a Hawaiian Kiss, but I can certainly keep it in the forefront of my mind as I wander through the world and its sacred inhabitants.
Aloha to all of you. Feel free to share your understandings and experiences of Aloha below. I know I still have a lot to learn about it.