You’re going to begin to think I am on the road a lot. I have another bumper sticker to share with you, next to my “Maui Life Is Good” blog, “Practice Aloha.” Bear with me, I am considering a bumper sticker blog series! Stopped in slow-moving traffic behind a Maui cruiser with its proclamation of PRACTICE ALOHA on its bumper, I got to thinking as to its inherent meaning.
What is Aloha?
Aloha is a polysemous word and a philosophy. Most know it as a salutation, said as in a greeting “hello” or with a parting goodbye. In the Hawaiian language, it has a greater all-encompassing definition of peace, grace, affection, compassion, respect, all-embracing love, kindness, breath, life force, a sending and a receiving of positivity. In Hawai’i, the spirit of aloha is a fundamental way of life for which we are officially known as the Aloha state.
The Hawaiian alphabet consists of just 13 letters including A, E, I, O, U, H, K, L, M, N, P, W, and the thirteenth being the ‘okina, a glottal stop, written as a reversed apostrophe. With a limited alphabet, its words pack punch. Broken down to its essence “Alo” means presence, face, front, and “ha” which translates to breath. Aloha then literally means “presence of breath” though its full meaning and usage go beyond any singular definition.
Back to the traffic, navigationally speaking, “mauka” is a colloquial term meaning towards the mountain and “makai” translates to towards the ocean. By example, a local islander may tell you to “go mauka” if you are driving upcountry, and “stay makai” if you are going towards the ocean.
It was here then, stuck in slow moving traffic, on Pi’ilani Highway where a new and needed high school is being built mauka (mountainside) of the highway in north Kihei, that I began contemplating the impact of the word Aloha. Some road delays with the first phase of infrastructure construction work are inevitable and beg for patience. The end goal is a new school for our Maui keiki (kids).
Blazing orange “Road work ahead” signs alert approaching cars to merge lanes and take caution. With all the rising stress and anxiety that traffic evokes, I began to imagine a road sign that reads instead “Practice Aloha,” the gentle nudge to slow down, pause, be considerate, give way, get Zen, and try to go with the flow. At the end of the day it’s a journey. And there are always other paths or in this case routes to reach your destination. For those who can avoid Pi’ilani Highway for the time being, there is the shoreline road, South Kihei Road. And my detour sign? “Stay Makai”!
Keep that Aloha State of Mind, Practice Aloha