A window into a better future.
What do you think of? Wonderful music? Corinthian columns? Mai Tai in a beach chair?
Whatever image you have, there’s a decent chance an advertisement or movie is lurking somewhere behind your consciousness. I know, it’s depressing. Mountain Dew tells me what extreme sports are, DeBeers writes etiquette for marriage proposals, and Dos Equis is the quiet whisper of “relax.”
It just is, and you’d be hard pressed to come up with your own perfect vacation that doesn’t echo a scene from a Bond movie or crib lines from a travel brochure.
I was in Maui a few weeks ago. (I know. Shed a tear for me.) As you can imagine, there are resorts. There are guidebooks. There are trinkets. There are things you need to do. Travel companies have been hyping Maui since just after the Wright brothers touched down at Kitty Hawk and flight became feasible.
But you know what is so amazing about that place? It doesn’t need it. As soon as your plane begins to descend on one of the most remote island chains in the Pacific, you think with puzzlement: Who invented this place? The world’s best surfing, best beaches, best snorkeling, best scuba, best windsurfing, perfect weather, crystal clear water – doesn’t that sound like a Disney park? Mai Tais served by Princess Jasmine and all?
Quickly, I can see that the resorts have not created this perfection; they can only cater to it. Actually, it is not hard to avoid the resorts entirely (we rented a place on Airbnb that my 2 year old infectiously dubbed, “Maui House”), but this actually leaves me with a problem – what I do with perfect? The indirect message of the Mountain Dew commercials and the travel brochures is to consume it. To take a bite of enjoyment out of the pleasure pie. Something for me.
But here I am, marveling at basically the same natural beauties as the Polynesian islanders who arrived a thousand years ago. Jagged cliffs. Black sand and red sand beaches. A 10,000 foot mountain springing out of the water.
My wife and I playfully talk about what it would be like to spend the rest of our lives here. On one level, it’s basically the same as saying, “What if our lives were perfect?” What if I had $50 million and we retired tomorrow and Princess Jasmine served us mixed drinks? But that is not real – resorts escape from reality.
Yet Maui is real. How would we live with this kind of natural gift?
The answer, I think, is to love it as a gift. Environmentalists be damned: the answer is to love the earth. The greens and the cycles and the fertility – if you are not going to simply consume it, you have to have a kind of relationship to it. You have to fear the mountain, you have to be thankful for the fruit, you have to spend time with the trees. Not as equals, but together. You have to, I say, be the beneficent ruler of a little kingdom that is only partially human.
Not all the problems would go away, but I would share in a gift and, at my best, maybe regift it.
At this point, there is no fine line between the Hawaiian paradise and my DC concrete jungle. And yet Maui does feel like a window to a better way of doing it … a window to when I can do these same things, only a little more
Bryan Wandel works in government finance and has studied history, accounting, and religion. He is a member of the editorial board at Humane Pursuits. Bryan’s writing has appeared at Comment Magazine, First Things, and elsewhere.