I’m not sure how to explain the past two days.
Monday evening we went to the Hawaiian Lantern Festival, a festival promoting peace and harmony and organized by the Shinnyo-en Buddhists, whereby lanterns are set to sea by people wishing to commemorate lost loved ones. The priest (a woman, but they called her a priest) spoke.
“Lights of the lanterns are lights of hope which extend our gratitude to our ancestors.”
She also spoke of the lanterns as a communication vessel “between souls seen and unseen”. She shared how the kindness of America in helping Japan after the tsunami and earthquake wouldn’t be forgotten.
I saw lanterns decorated with the Japanese flag bearing the words, “Remember Japan”. Others said, “To Auntie” and “My Beloved Son”. Many wrote to grandparents describing how the family thinks of them everyday, and one with, “PFC (first and last name), Persian Gulf War”. On the other side, his date of death and a photo of the soldier.
Forty thousand people stood on the edge of Ala Moana Beach Park. It was quiet enough to hear the conch shell being blown at the festival stand on the other end of the beach. We watched as over 3,000 lanterns bobbed in the gentle waves and floated to the edge of the bay. All those lanterns represented lost loved ones. It was reverent, solemn, peaceful.
At the end of the ceremony, everyone sang a song in Hawaiian. (I believe it was “Aloha Oe”, but I’m not sure). An elderly, petite Asian woman stood in the sand holding her cane in one hand and her daughter’s arm in the other. She sang as loud as she could in her frail condition and held a smile large enough to light up her face and expose the tears in her eyes.
Today, I found myself at Hickam Air Force Base staring at the walls of buildings riddled with bullet holes from the Japanese attack in 1941.
The Doomsday plane was parked on the field. I don’t know why it was here, but the thought of the plane being developed for use in case of nuclear attack left me somber.
After Hickam AFB, I stood on the grounds of Pearl Harbor Naval Base, peering through a chain link fence, across the bay, to the Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri.
Reflecting back to the Lantern Festival last night and then to the images before me at Pearl Harbor and Hickam, I wondered about human nature.