Pele is the volcano goddess. Pele lives. She is ferociously beautiful. She demands that you understand both aspects of her fluidity, which requires understanding yourself. If you want to live on this island because you find her beautiful, you must also accept her ferocity. That means remaining self-aware, which includes being aware of your surroundings at all times.
Living in Hawaii takes focus. Those who lose focus learn a lesson, often painful, usually frightening. In the last article I wrote about a relative who learned such a lesson and how we used logical observation of the pull of the tides to rescue her. What I didn’t tell you was that there was another more personal lesson involved. The one I outlined was impersonal—it could have happened to anyone and been resolved just the same. That type of story is acceptable to the mainstream culture as a work of fact. What I am about to tell you is also a fact, but it would not be considered such in the main. This, because we have a hangup about subjective experience. Science holds that observations must be uniformly repeatable for an experience to be universally valid. One glaring flaw to this concocted belief is that while subjective experiences may be personalized, the context that contains them can be the uniformly repeatable thing.
In the case of Pele, Westernized people not from Hawaii may believe that talking about a goddess as a real intelligence is a cute storytelling device. Anyone who lives here, and most people who have visited for a length of time, know that what follows is how things actually work on the Big Island….
Hawaii shows you many a splendid sight. This place is so engrossing that it’s hard to leave. Many do not. Pele helps you decide whether you belong here or not.
How does she do this? Always the same way. She puts you in circumstances that force you to deal with your personal issues so deeply buried, you often don’t even know that’s what’s happening. That is the universal, repeated, conformist aspect to this subjective experience. Naturally, the issues being personal, how your narrative unfolds along this template will be individualized.
In the case of my relative, she was thinking of moving here to live with me in paradise. She had visited before, but that visit was cut short by tragedy on the mainland. A death in the family, someone extremely close to her who was the last person tethering her to the East Coast. A source of great love, but also great responsibility and anxiety, passed.
She flew back on Christmas Day. In the short amount of time she’d been here, she had a grand ol’ time. Swam with dolphins. No allergic reactions to the flora, which she feared would be out of control. Took in the awing landscape. Felt so at ease that the next time she came to visit, she would leave her anxiety medications at home.
Who needs ‘em? This is Hawaii!
Cut to that second vacation, being out in the water at Two-Step. We had been swimming for long enough that we were both ready to go back in. But there had been no dolphins. Like a child (and perhaps semi-jokingly like a child) she pouted, “I don’t want to go back! I want to see dolphins!”
As if on command, a large pod of dolphins surfaced all around us. They played and spun around in the air. It was like being granted a wish by a Disney fairy. This was by far her most magical of moments here in the Pacific. Until it came time to get out, and then… if you read the last article, you know how this ended. Pele presented her with the best Hawaii had to offer chased by the worst, all in a span of an afternoon.
Funny thing about that worst: it didn’t have to happen at all. The tragedy of being consumed by a wave and swept out to sea was actually her own fault. She chose to take off her fins at her leisure in the face of a storming ocean and against the advice of one more familiar with this scenario. Lost in the illusion of magical protection and dolphins on demand, she refused to take the cues and read the situation. She thought she had anxiety issues before….
If you don’t want to confront the real problem confronting you, you might shy away and blame Hawaii instead of thanking Pele. If you’re my relative, you might want to hole up in my house for the rest of your vacation. We did leave to pay a visit to Volcanoes National Park, but wouldn’t you know it? It happened to be a day when the vog (volcanic smog) index was so high that it made us feel loopy and gave her a migraine. After that, she didn’t want to go anywhere, contented to sit at my doorstep and stare at geckos playing in flowers just beyond the stoop. By this time, her anxiety disorders were going full throttle and one of her meds was a prescription she could not fill here.
She hasn’t been back since.
You could spend your entire life never believing the Pele aspect of this story and live happily ever after. The story plays out time and again, whether one believes or not. And it needs to because Hawaii is a drastic place of great heights, unimaginable depths, sharp terrain, and barely a guardrail or lifeguard in sight. You want to take in everything and yet you have to watch where you’re going. Pele asks, “I know you want to live here, but are you ready to? Are you sure you’re right with yourself and therefore right for me?”
When a place is all fun and games but also surrounded by death, that’s life. This place is more alive than most people I’ve met. That aliveness—that awareness—demands we be equally aware to thrive here. Hawaii is an active volcano run on the consciousness of an active volcano goddess. You don’t have to believe or disbelieve, but stepping off the plane means stepping into her domain and your life story taking a turn on her template.
Those who thrive here are the ones living in love and open to understanding all of the dimensions of this place. Not just the scientific dimensions of space-time formed by the environment, but the dimensions of meaning formed by the consciousnesses that are also the environment.
To be that person, to live aloha, means understanding oneself, heart, brain, and everything in between.