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A Letter About "Aloha," the Internal Paradise

I have, over the years, received many requests for "a definition of 'aloha,'" or words to that effect. And, though I have such facile "definitions" at my fingertips, most are merely clich?s, failing to touch completely the inner expression of so beautiful a word.

I was nudged into this train of thought by a letter from a Maui friend, author Georgia Tanner, who invited me to state my mana'o "about the meanings of this complex and important word," which, in the same sentence, she so sensitively perceived as "that internal paradise, the spirit of aloha."

And it really is just that, isn't it; not just the shopworn Hawaii Visitors Bureau promotional gimmick, the tour guide's plastic smile with palm extended, nor the hula show emcee's hokey "Alooo-Ha!" which convey absolutely nothing of the true spirit of Hawaii—they just mean, "We hope you brought your money!" Aloha is a meaningful expression of the spirit. And although the word is Hawaiian, its message is, enriched by tenderness, compassion, consideration, charity, and understanding.

Aloha is all of the foregoing, and much more. To me, aloha is that innate quality which permits, us, whatever our circumstances, to revel in the inalienable wealth with which our benevolent gods have endowed us; to luxuriate in the heady fragrance of lush mountain groves as we chant paeans of love to "Earth Mother" Haumea while harvesting fragrant ferns, lichens, and sweet maile vines to adorn the hula altar of divine Laka.

It is communicating with, and receiving inner guidance from, the Earth, the sea, the winds and the sky, from the creatures that swim, crawl, and walk. It is treading precipitous and often bizarre lava footpaths down into the fiery heart of Pele's Kilauea home—to dance and chant and lay our humble nature offerings upon the molten robes of our adored fire goddess.

Aloha, for me, is sharing the deep knowledge of our Hawaiian ancestors with the truly dedicated tide of Seekers whose mystic helmsman guides them to our beacon light each year. It is sharing with the many the enchanting public presence, lovingly honed skills, and the passionate spiritual expression of my sacred dancers, the women of my halau hula.

And they, realising that, perhaps, not one word of the melodious chants they sing may be understood by the mass of those who listen entranced...know that it is not important: the gods hear and understand. And for Tanata, "Man,"...the urgent message of the spirit touches the greatest and the least, equally and impartially—and all are enriched, both those who give and those who receive. And, when I raise my arms and cry the gods, I am lifted. I am endowed—for that fleeting moment—I and we are permitted to be one with Them: Aloha...

Aloha is my children, and my grandchildren, the fruit and essence of my being who, with other scores of budding "flowers" have shyly entered my world of the spirit and the dance—to learn, and take honest pride in, the noble creative traditions of our common ancestors. This fulfillment is also aloha.

Aloha is the women who have been my wives and lovers, my creative partners and my inspiration. And I love each of them still—for the shared gifts of love and faith; for providing both vehicle and stage for my own unfoldment; for permitting me to guide them in theirs; for loving gifts of mana.

Aloha is "a complex and important word" of near unlimited powers. But its greatest power and beauty is that, by whatever name, we all have it! We need only to open the floodgates and let it flow; let it inundate all within our individual spheres. Then truly will each of us be living within "that internal paradise, the spirit of Aloha."

I mahalo Georgia for asking the question and again for providing her profoundly lovely answer; and lastly, for nudging me to set forth my own simple thoughts and feelings about...aloha. I don't believe my rambling summation really covers the definition you came seeking, yet it is me, and I can offer nothing more....