Hawaii. The indefectible Garden of Eden. The Aloha State, that today, stands to provide much more than just a sun tan. After 6 nights in tropical paradise I was granted just enough time to uncover a little bit more evidence as to the irony that is man’s war with the very lands we call home. You see, for millennia, the political canvas has long been different shades of Reds vs. Blues, a bi-chromatic color scheme that has only recently made room for the eco-suggestive Green. The zeitgeist is understandable…as the number of mouths increase, so to do the demands for life’s elixirs. Cannibalism, moreover self-cannibalism, is the theme of the man vs. wild war of attrition, that, unless commandeered by Elon Musk & Al Gore, will end in zero-sum. Perhaps our Shakespearean tragedy of consumerism, which we know will always finalize in death, is a 1st world issue of glutton; the less-endowed, like the Hawaiian Islands, simply catch the by-products of our global gentrification. As we continue to appease our habitual take, take, take mentality, the resources we know to be finite are unavoidably susceptible to extinction. These ideals are all understood – if we take we, must replace – but only in concept, which are seldom executed. We used to be better at this give/take and there even was an era where man lived symbiotically with the wild. What then, could be the reason behind our impeding inability to properly co-habitate? The answer, is disconnect. Before man was gifted their fancy opposable thumbs and nightmarishly vivid thought parades we know to be consciousness, we understood our rank amongst the cosmic food chain. Values change, an emotional form of Darwinism that, by design, should make society the benefactor of human progress. Instead, we have turned Mother Earth into our house pet that we feverishly attempt to discipline to suit master’s needs. Earth doesn’t belong to us, in fact, I opine the contrary…but, people only show capacity to love and appreciate what can be considered “theirs.” Anything beyond the realm of ownership falls to the wayside to be victimized by our impenetrable tunnel-visioned endeavors to accrue MORE. We secure and fence in what is ours, and unapologetically take what is not. The key to this bio-dilemma, in an unsurprising and unoriginal blanket solution, is finding balance. This past week, after spending day-after-day bequeathed in picturesque Hawaii, I witnessed a more sustainable relationship between Man vs. Wild. Perfect balance, like the Fountain of Youth, is a highly sought ideal that most forfeit too; my Hawaiian counterparts may not even be looking, but stumbled across this archaic virtue of balance graciously. All who visit Hawaii leave with a sun tan. For the observant, the ones who look beyond the infinity pools and chaise lounge, rolls bags through security brimming with perspective. The Hawaiian life – for Hawaiians- isn’t just Mai-Tais and low tide swells…it’s a constant cerebral adjustment to remain on the wave.
Surfing: The Lesson Learned at Sea
How to Accepts What’s Out of Your Control
It’s hard to avoid clichés, and I’m close to giving up on the omission of them. They are reused and recycled for good reason, as they’re accurate. With that, life is like surfing, a sport Hawaiians showcase their proficiency and passion for in spades. As a board sport, of course, kinesiology and the principals of balance are inherent. $200/hr. under the tutelage of a white dude from Portland, island name “Tiki,” can afford you a baby-proofed foam board that will steal your dignity as the buoyant behemoth can be maneuvered with prenatal, instinctual ease. The real balance, the epiphany-form that left me teary-eyed, was the balance locals harness between man and the elements. Not the technique, but again, the virtue. Waves aren’t the calculated result of lunar orbit, as most subscribe to the ideal that gravity is the puppet master of tide. Instead, the wave machine that’s carbon copying the left-hand swells on Maui is the result of an elemental cataclysm, indoctrinated miles of shore through the raw-dog of fornication Mother Ocean and Father Time. Storms are of the vicious kind when they are birthed beyond the vision of man. When a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, perhaps it does not make a sound. But, when North Pacific trade winds meet low dew points and cold fronts, man will not only hear the churn, but fear it, as the undertow rips beneath their feet like in nautical tug of war. The oceanic factors that provide the building blocks for surf-able monsters are copious; wind speeds, ocean depth, barrier reefs, and shore lines are the pallet paints that accent blue crush with white caps. Contrary to surf comber folklore, the oceanic ingredients that bake the Hawaiian rip curl are far from the Goldilocks conditional set that mandates Eden-like surf. In fact, better swell can easily be found elsewhere. Why then, is Hawaiia held with such idolized laud when it comes to the surf? Gnarly as it may be, our extended understanding of the virtue of balance is once again our final answer, Regis. Other breaks are infamous for the quarrel they thrust man into, against the beast that is the Ocean. Hawaiian surf is about the harmony…man AND, not man VERSUS.
Surfing isn’t just about waves, as sex isn’t just about ejaculating. If we looked at these dialogues in the traditional one sided, end-goal approach, then we might as well just be jerking off alone at night and not waste our time with the other involved party. Instead, we know we know that the tango always takes two. Somewhere along the way, perhaps via Hawaiian folklore and island religion, students of surf understand the ying/yang equilibrium required to be a true salt water apprentice. Form the matrimony and devout yourselves to the game. There’s a secret ingredient in Hawaiian surf, an additive grandma used to protect with the grizzly ferocity, all while hiding it in plain sight…love. Love, pride, heroism, bravery, and respect are but a minutia of the non-oceanic factors that go into surfing. These emotional “controllables” are the independent variables in my Hawaiian surf experiment…tantamount to the variables of winds, depth, season, and other “uncontrollables.” The Serenity Prayer emphasizes the 50/50 relationship between Man AND Wild, pleading that God grant the serenity to understand and accept the things we can’t control (the waves) but the strength and foresight to adjust the things we can (ourselves).
When paddling out into overhead barrels, man-eaters with a kill count far and above any shark, skill and technique will only get us up and over the take off. To surf like a Hawaiian, elated in nirvana with unwavering gratuity, one must channel the wave within themselves, as foo-foo mystic as that may sound. Mother nature torments, with her unforgiving and indiscriminant power; she in omnipotent over the specks of life that call her womb home. The only way to fight her fire, is with your own. This tropical rendition of the Law of Attraction can be taught and understood, but it takes a particular acumen to personify it. So, where does the Hawaiian Ying derive from? The symbiotic catalyst, to the oceans dormant destructive Yang? Well, it’s because they know what it is like to live without.
The Take: The Lessons Learned from Thievery
The fabled Hawaiian history lesson is one of tumult and tyranny. For brevities sake, we’ll attempt to condense the millennia of history in these 3 sentences, in retrograde. Today, Hawaii is sovereign state 50 of the continental United States. Before, it was a Pacific trade port town that acted as a half way mark between Polynesia and Western Culture. Originally, it was home to a native population of nearly 300,000 ancient Hawaiians, with their own dialect, religion, law, and culture. In that time, the population was decimated by foreign warfare and disease non-endemic to the islands…a pillaging regime that brought the thriving people to near extinction. After going through the wash cycle time and time again, being traded amongst European and American powers like a holographic Pokémon card, the origins of Hawaiian life are preserved through hear-say storytelling…generational heirlooms worth their weight in gold to the individuals that have shreds of native DNA spliced into the perplexed Hawaiian Genome. If you need more than that, feel from to Google.
So, since inception, or should I say American collection, Hawaiians have been engulfed in a perpetual struggle for balance and preservation. Their ability to finesse life does have deep roots in surf and sand, which is likely what has made them so adept at managing the economic climate the islands were prone to. Like surfing, the lessons learned from imperialism aren’t tangible, they are virtuous. In surf, the perfect wave is less important than the appreciation for the turquoise swells and the dense mahogany board that allows the ride. In the defecation of native Hawaii, fretting over the losses is subsequent to the collateral beauty offered and realized. Having had so much taken, Hawaii adopted a new meaning of possession, understanding the importance of separating the material from the meaning.
Let’s start with the residual example. The embodiment of the ideal possession without ownership, this time debunked of cliché, can be found at the Poe dunk, scantily clad freak show that Hawaiians call nightlife. While the island reputation lends itself to stoner bros with chiseled backs and beach-blondes babes who’d be more than content with a joint and a starry night, in actuality, the scene is aggressive. You’ll find what you’re looking for…mainlanders are often rewarded their prize of a dark-skinned surfer girl that’ll fuck you on a black sand beach beneath the moonlight…but the travelers’ grail that is exotic sex doesn’t come without it’s roadblocks. For every beach bunny, you’ll find a flock of locals with fists clenched, eagerly awaiting your next move that thrusts you into the realm of unacceptability. It’s not all sup brahs and alohas, rather the Hawaiian social scene is cluttered with pugnacious people quick to throw fists at first glance of a Haole (white man) flying a bit too close to the sun. This isn’t frat boy fanfare, not by a long shot. The alpha dog phenomenon one encounters during their visits, are that of protective passion, a value that runs as deep as the volcanic shafts that have tourists punching their frequent flier miles to visit.
You see, Hawaii has a different meaning for the word possession. As previously mentioned, we as a people are quick to fight for what is believed to be ours, while expressing unmatched apathy to matters that lay outside of our realm of influence. My family, my house, my belongings, and my own body…that’s the standard list of worries for most mainlanders. Hawaii and its native people were devastated by 20th century imperialism with raucous effect. Without vaccination, illness plagued the newfound Hawaiian lands with pandemic destruction. Without gunpowder, foreign armadas tore down the native hierarchy. But, without passion for their islands, Hawaiian culture would not have survived. Expansionism was the poster child for the traditional take what is not mine, then I will protect it mentality. In our bar crawl example, men will fight for women they haven’t even met, not out of testosterone, but for territory. The trophy that was Hawaii was not yet on the conquistador’s mantle, so, to the invaders, the inhabitants and way of life was inconsequential. Again, our fancy opposable thumbs and even fancier sad-powder we know as gunpowder was the eraser to the historic chalkboard Hawaii had etched up over millennia. The way of life and nearly 80% of the native people were the blood sacrifice to the imperial gods, a death sentence for other victims along the trade wind islands….but not Hawaii.
The sliver of originals, the ones evaded the dysentery and wrath that was European/American smallpox and bayonets, were a sample size just large enough to preserve the original culture. Now, an official state of the United States of fucking A, the ancient Hawaiians, like all creatures of the world, evolved. While the centuries-worth of political and societal diaspora cut deep into the moral fiber of island life, the fireside stories of what once was, burn bright enough to light the way into the future. Conflict and struggle will always result in erosion. Luckily, when Hawaiian lava flows, new land is left behind…land with enough nascent nutrient to breed new life. Hawaiians and the people who call the lava fields and sugar cane plantations home won’t be fooled again. As a member of the union, where the ideal of efficient, cost effective production fly’s as brazenly as the star-spangled banner, the islands now have country club access to the economics of importation. While the landscape is rich, the Pacific Hawaiian Islands have grown exceedingly resource poor, in 21st century standards. While pineapples, cane sugar, and onions grow in abundance and the volcanic sediment in the soil actually makes the agricultural enigmatically sweet, capitalism reigns supreme over a root with a pleasant after taste. With that, this tropical paradise has becoming exceedingly reliant on the outside world and is now a land of total import. They have our school systems, internet access, and have ports on the trade routes…so of course, they benefit from the grocery store that is the United States consumeristic abundance. While the societal landscape has undergone drastic metamorphism, the ideology of the ancients remains intact. In this land of imports, our Hawaiian countrymen thirst to plant flag in the few things that they can still call theirs! In that, they understand that ownership has little to no effect on possessive pride.
The Give: The Lessons Learned from The Land
It’s daunting to swallow pride and wash your mouth of the bitter after-taste that is deceit and anguish. Decades of Hawaiian devastation by the forefathers have been forgiven, but not forgotten. The lesson that the Hawaiians keep in the back of their coconuts is not one of possession in the traditional sense…its far more expanded than our Peabody understanding will ever be. Lawfully, my possessions make up a pretty short list. That is because the standard definition of possession is derived in ownership. I will protect things that I paid for and can show receipt of. Hawaiians, after being scraped of their ancient ways, used their savant methods of balance to construct a new meaning. The entire island is “theirs,” without any deed or proof of title. Fences are physical, of course, but not so symbolic as they are on the mainland. With that, the circle of Hawaiian influence has a radius larger than any NYC real estate tycoon can ever dream of. In State 50, everyone is accountable for everything. After having so damn much taken from them, it will take a village to hold on to the shreds of originality that remain intact. Don’t litter. Don’t touch the turtles. Eat with sustenance. Explore insatiably. Talk to strangers. Share the beach. Accept people for their differences. Say please & thank you. Wear a condom. Even after being the ultimate victim of identity theft, the charismatic people of the island still extend their hospitality to include their mainland and global visitors. They say good fences make good neighbors, so thousands of miles of ocean should do the trick. But instead, paradise is never lost, rather shared with the people who live the same idealist life of balance between man and nature.
The preach, is certainly practiced. Even after having their livelihood taken from them by the foreign powers, Hawaii still understands how to send Alohas to people with the affinity to visit. Tourism, understandably, has become the lifeblood of the Hawaiian economy, accounting for more than 75% of the GDP. With that, every 20-something occupies a desk in the service industry, catering to the very tyrants that thrashed and burned their ancestral grounds. With a smile on their face, the wait-staff goes down the standard list of colloquial questionings, making the visitors feel hospitality that simply isn’t found anywhere else. I feel the reason they selflessly give, isn’t a derivative of the dollars the travelers bring. Talking loosens lips. So, does alcohol. In tandem, you’ll get a pretty lengthy bar tab and heavily correlated tip. While cash rules everything, I’d like to believe that the benevolence stems instead from a mutual understanding that Hawaii is one of Earths last remaining paradises. Through a profoundly deep love and affection for the islands, the locals understand that this land is to be shared…a lesson they certainly didn’t learn through our tyrannical example. But, the amenities come with a stipulation. The spiritual gangsters, the mainlanders who unhinge themselves from the office cubicles in hopes of greener pastures island-side, the very ones who are held with such an envious laud from the those they left in their jet streams, aren’t mavericks in the Hawaiian eye. Instead, a tourists first class airfare is a Swiss Cheese travel itinerary. When held to the sun, the holes in the wanderlust plans are blatantly obvious. The dissonance between WHAT they are doing and WHY they are doing it is apparent, and they will likely divorce from the Hawaiian lifestyle before the honeymoon stage is over. For that reason, go to Hawaii to travel, not just vacation. A wise man once told me that an interested person, is an interesting one. If you want to receive the Alohas from the locals, its of pinnacle importance to show that you’re not seeking the sands to simply suntan…your bronzed skin should be a byproduct of your explorations. With that logic, the locals are happy to give you tenancy on their lands, so long as you show them the respect they deserve. In this Ying Yang battle, preserve and protect vs. prosper and provide, Hawaii will give even if you ferociously take…it’s a land of extremes, so if you can only muster 1%, they will send back the other 99.
Harmony: The Lesson in Perpetuity
In theory, I suppose, this give/take nature makes sense. On the mainland, we fight tooth and nail for what lies within our fenced space and arduously attempt to expand borders. Hawaiians understand the universal truth that everything is temporary, so they grow roots deep and squeeze the fruit of their land until the last drop. This detached sense of possession accounts, in my eyes, for Hawaii’s ability to forgive the tumult of the past and give back to the very people who are to blame. Today, Hawaii is thriving on nearly every socioeconomic level…but that is only because they balance on land as well as they do on their boards at sea. Because of the newfound definitions of American virtue and morale, paradise won’t be lost. Attitude will preserve the islands as Eden, forbidding the more likely path to Aldernaan.