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“The eyes are the window to your soul.” — William Shakespeare

I was fortunate to have a recent conversation with Michael, who works at Waipā Foundation, about environmental conservation, the Hawaiian community’s role in conservation, and his path from graphic design to environmental science and agriculture. During this conversation however, my eyes were complimented.

As we were talking about the current state of the community’s knowledge of resource availability and sustainable management, he interrupted himself and said “You have really beautiful eyes.” I was taken aback because no one ever really compliments my eyes that often, but for some reason, the way he said it was not in a way of coquetry but more so expressed in sincerity.

I responded with Shakespeare’s quote, “The eyes are the window to your soul.”  He nodded and agreed with me, talking about how the eyes show who you are. They show your traits, your emotions, and they are capable of shouting what you wish you could say. Eyes are able to convey passion. Passion that often many people lack.

Michael talked about how he has experienced people with a glazed over look in their eyes, as if they lost who they are. They lack the light in their eyes, a light that the scripture of Matthew 6:22 is a sign of good health. A sign of happiness.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.” (Matthew 6:22)

As a frequent traveler, one of my life goals is to engage with new communities. Not in a touristy way, not in a savior complex way, but in a way that even if I am perceived as an “outsider”, they can still look into my eyes and see how much I care about who they are, their priorities, and their cultural history. I want them to be able to look in my eyes and see that I am listening.

Found this gorgeous view on our ride to work. Photo taken by Briana Kleiner

Here in Kaua’i, I try to relate to the Aloha Spirit that interconnects communities here. The Aloha Spirit is the relationship between one’s true mind, heart and soul, manifested by goodness and selflessness. To put it more simply, it means being humble and honest; it also includes the values that Native Hawaiian parents teach their children. The Aloha Spirit, I have learned from Aunty Maka’ala, is almost a non-confrontational personality.

Those native, or indigenous Hawaiians, believe that looking someone straight in the eye, you are looking into the eyes of a bear. It is about respect, and treating others the way you want to be treated. Embodying the Aloha Spirit, would be almost the equivalent of the Golden Rule. Its uniqueness, is not so much attributed to just the culture, but because Kaua’i is seen as a place of isolation.

According to Aunty, in some ways, the overthrow of the kingdom of Hawai’i was because of the Aloha Spirit. Queen Liliuokalani chose to not have her people die, it was the aloha that the queen had for her people. It is a regard for life at its highest, and a regard for it at its base is our manners.

Looking into the eyes of the community here in Kaua’i, there are so many untold stories that I really still look forward to hearing more about. The challenge is getting to hear as many stories as I can. I find it interesting, though, how we share a common value. Native Hawaiians have their own name for what we know as the Golden Rule from grade school, however, it has a deeper and more spiritual meaning with it. The peace that comes with one’s Aloha Spirit is something we all should strive for. The love, the passion, the light in our eyes should not be lost, but embraced in conversation. They should be complimented. Valued. Because the eyes speak when the mouth cannot.

Our eyes are the keepers of our stories.

Briana’s Eyes. Photo taken by Briana Kleiner