Wednesday, January 30, 2013


"Ohana" is a Hawaiian Concept that Essentially means Brotherhood

surfing Lilo & Stich Disney movie

Ever since I wrote my review of "Lilo & Stich" for one of my websites, I've been thinking about the Hawaiian concept of "Ohana." Well, not ever since, but it has been in the back of my mind. I was out shovelling snow this morning (it was only a few inches, but still one of the heaviest snows of the winter so far) and I had some time to think about it. Anyone familiar with "Lilo & Stich" knows that it concerns an alien creature that looks somewhat like a dog and comes to earth. Landing in Hawaii, it is adopted by an orphaned girl and her caretaker older sister.

Now, animated films aren't usually the source of great philosophical inspiration. However, you can be inspired by anything that has thought or beauty behind it. I've been inspired by a lot less meaningful creative works than that! An inquiring mind simply needs a little push, and it can take care of things from there.


"Ohana" means family in an extended sense. "Lilo & Stich" implies that the concept apples to just about anybody, which is a nice thought, but a bit of a misinterpretation of the concept. Just to be clear, "Ohana" in its strictest sense is confined to blood relations, though there doesn't seem to be a clear limit on how far that extends. "Hui" is the proper word for non-familial associations.

As you might expect from a Disney movie like "Lilo & Stich," the concept of "Ohana" is broadened to imply that everyone is related, and we all must cooperate and be thoughtful to one another even if we aren't close family members. That's a beautiful thought, even if it isn't quite what word means. The people behind those films are quite clever and knowledgeable (Chris Sanders came up with the idea for the film, but nobody does any project like that alone), so it's unlikely that they were under some kind of misunderstanding of the concept. Most likely, they knew exactly what the term meant and ran with it in that feel-good fashion that makes Disney the enduring institution that it is. Nothing wrong with that, people love Disney movies for precisely that reason.

Anyway, the question for you to think about - for I am not trying to provide answers here, only trying to make you think on your own - is, wouldn't the world be a better place if there really were a practice of "Ohana" as spelled out in "Lilo & Stich"? If we treated everyone else as "family," rather than just blood relations, would the world not be better off? Would you not be better off? Politicians love to emphasize things like "family values" and the importance of "family," that is the usual mantra each campaign season. But, worthwhile as that it - we certainly should treat blood relations well - isn't there a certain destructiveness to setting people apart even in that supposedly noble fashion?

If you treat family better than others, that means you treat others worse. You may say, "But I have no obligations to others, and they don't have my best interests at heart." That is certainly true and undeniable. But if you restrict your feelings of togetherness to only close blood relations, that limits you, and limits your potential. Treat people well, and you might be surprised at how they treat you in return. Act as if the only thing that matters in the world is "family," and you aren't going to influence too many people the way you might like like. This is not an anti-family argument, but a pro-people one. We are all related, as people, and selectively including some and excluding others from your circle of togetherness may work, but it limits everyone. Many successful people, I think, in general (certainly not always) practice this type of thinking, for to become successful, you will have to rely and depend on others at some point. There really is no other way.

Maybe now you, too, will think about Ohana at some point when you are shovelling snow or doing the laundry. And maybe it will make you think about how you treat "strangers" and others. Which isn't a bad thing, and if enough people think about it, the world might become a slightly better place.

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