15 September 2012

Where is the pono?

It has now been twelve days since I returned from Hawaii and still the memory of my last day on Oahu looms large in my mind.  Specifically, the drive back to the Cathedral from Hale'iwa Beach remains most clearly.

As I drove through the pineapple fields with the red dirt near the mountains on my back to Honolulu, I was listening to Hawaiian 105 KINE when two songs played back-to-back which seemed to summarize the emotions that I could not find words to express.

The first was "I Miss You, My Hawaii," by Na Leo Pilimehana.  The refrain sings:
Everytime I stop to watch the moon dance across the early evening skyEverytime I hear a country tune I can see the shores of Wai'aniEverytime I listen to my heart telling me it longsto go back homeAnd it makes me want to Cause I miss you, my Hawaii
Even as I prepared in my mind to finish packing before even being taken to the airport, I missed Hawaii.  I missed the natural beauty of the island, the mountains and the ocean, the red dirt and the beaches, the trees and flowers, the smell of the sea and of the flowers, the sound of the waves and the breeze across my face.  I already missed all of it.

But more than that, I missed the people of these islands.  They are the most warm, welcoming, and friendly people I have ever encountered and they have taken me in as one of their own.  They do indeed strive to live with aloha and to live in pono.  For whatever reason, on the mainland I sometimes feel somewhat out of place, but on the island I feel quite at home.

With this sadness - for lack of a better or clearer word - the second song - or, rather, one line of it - caught and held my attention.  The song is titled, "You and Me," by Celio and Kapono.  The line that caught my attention sang:
Can I take you home with me?
Immediately I thought back to the t-shirt I saw only a day or so before that read, "Keep Calm and Live Pono," a phrase which struck me so deeply that it became the basis for a homily I preached at the Cathedral (that Easter particularly enjoyed).  It occurred to me then what I needed to take home with me: Pono.

About three days before I had to return to the mainland, I said to my friends at the Cathedral - in all honesty - "I'm not ready to see white people yet."  Knowing what I meant, they laughed with me.  Let me explain what I mean.

That morning I went out to Makapu'u Point for an earlier morning hike to watch the sunrise.  As I passed by slower folks on the way up - and was passed by folks already on their way back down - I offered a greeting of "Good morning," or some other such words.

The islanders - those of Asian and Polynesian descent - always returned the greeting in kind and we would then wish each other a good day.  The white folks who had lived on the island for a while (you can tell) didn't always return a verbal greeting, but they would always at least nod the head in greeting or wave in greeting.  It was the white tourists who refused even to turn their eyes toward me.  Each time this happened - when a warm and friendly greeting was completely ignored - I couldn't help but remember life on the mainland.

Mainlanders do this to each other all the time without even noticing it.  Consider our usual "greeting," the question, "How are you?"  To this question I most always respond, "I'm well; how are you?"  A response is rarely given.

If someone asks me instead, "What's up?"  I answer either "Not much, you?" (or some other answer, depending on the circumstances) and a response is rarely given.

Where is the aloha?  Where is the pono?

It is this simple concern for others that I must bring back to the mainland, this spirit of friendship and warmth that is so evident among the Hawaiian people.  To live pono is simply to think more about others than about myself. It is, a very real sense, to live the Christian life, to love with the love of Jesus Christ.

To be sure, it is easier to live pono when others are trying to live it around it.  That is why, I think, it is so present on the island (and the natural beauty of their homeland doesn't hurt, either).

Here on the mainland we're often in too big of a hurry to carry about someone else, even simply to pause for a moment and see how their day is going and often a word of praise or of encouragement.

To this end, I intend to start a new series of blog posts that will be titled "To Live Pono" through which I hope to offer simple suggestions about living pono and bringing a little more love and happiness to the world.

I pray that I will indeed have taken pono home with me.  Won't you help me spread pono?

P.S.: If you want to hear the two songs, here they are:


  1. In the first few weeks of college I noticed that almost everyone on campus would ask "how's it going?" as you walked by, but not even remain looking at you long enough for an answer. My attempts to answer and return the question usually bounced off the person's back as they continued on their way. I still do not quite grasp the purpose of asking a question the answer to which you have no interest in - it seems to have been simply an unthinking response to seeing another human in close proximity.

    What's kind of entertaining is seeing the surprised look on a person's face when you return the inquiry to them - as if the thought that someone might actually be interested in how things are in their day is a shock. We have indeed become too busy, too callous, too separate from what surrounds us these days. I think we all need to slow down and smell the pineapple more often.

    1. Ha! I love it! That'll become a new phrase I'll use often; thanks, Frival!

      I like the looks of surprise when I don't simply say, "Fine" (which seems to be the only socially acceptable answer to the question. If I say, "Great!" sometimes they're interested; if I say, "Lousy!" they have no idea what to do.

  2. I love the concept of pono and your post on your trip to Hawaii. C&K always gets me there. Malama Pono! Aloha, Kaala

    1. Mahalo, Kaala! I hope you'll keep checking back for more posts on pono!