Aloha. Shalom! Go with Gaia?

Last week I added a valediction (or “complimentary close”) to my reflection for the first time. A few months ago a reader of the newsletter asked me why I don’t sign my name at the end of the reflections. I have thought a lot about this, and more since then. In truth, I didn’t want this to be about me but about Gaia, so I’ve always hesitated to sign the essays, and instead, like an editorial writer who never adds a byline, put the material above the author.

But this reader thought it conveyed the opposite: that I was another talking head—or worse a man behind the curtain—preaching on high without revealing my true identity. I’ve tried to not do that since the beginning, including using my name in emails rather than just “The Gaian Way,” but the reader felt the messages were personal enough to warrant a close.

I started to agree, but then that opened up the question: what’s in a valediction? I certainly don’t want to use a generic ‘sincerely’ or ‘yours truly.’ That wouldn’t do. Especially sincerely. I’ve always felt if you have to state that everything above was sincere, it doesn’t sound very sincere!

Reverend Peter Sawtell, a minister whose weekly sermons I value reading, closes these with “Shalom!” Shalom is a powerful Hebrew word, meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, and prosperity (and is part of Judeo-Christian tradition). Peace is definitely something to encourage: both inner peace and outer. And harmony is an excellent word—harmony with ourselves, each other, and the planet. But using peace or harmony alone isn’t enough, and using them together sounds a bit new-agey: “Peace and harmony, dude.” Or, as this Peppa Pig clip shows, where children sing “Peace and Harmony,” it’s a platitude that says nothing of how we actually get there.

The strongest contender, as I thought about this, was “Aloha.” Ever since visiting Hawaii, I’ve been touched by how deep that word is. Used to both say hello and goodbye, it is “the Hawaiian word for love, affection, peace, compassion and mercy.” Wow. Does all that come out when Hawaiians say hello or goodbye to each other—even just on a subconscious level—or has it become just a greeting? Either way it is much better than a generic greeting like “Hello,” stemming from holla, (from the French for Ho there!) and was a way to call attention to something. (Fascinating aside: Hello wasn’t really all that popular until the invention of the telephone, when it became the standard phone greeting. Though if Alexander Graham Bell had gotten his way, we would’ve all been saying “Ahoy” instead.)

aloha-4828394_1280But, coming back to Aloha, the last thing I’d want to do is appropriate another language and custom—Judeo-Christian or Indigenous. That feels disingenuous. So instead I chose a new closing, one that’s inspired by Vaya con Dios, a traditional Spanish goodbye, meaning Go with God. This closing is a strong prompt or reminder to live according to your beliefs, which, for me, also evokes deep sustainability feelings because of its use in Soylent Green, where the “police book” (or researcher/archivist) Saul says it to Thorn. (For those who have never seen that film, it is perhaps the best sci-fi exploration of a collapsed society ever.)

So, I will now end my reflections with “Go with Gaia.” Yes, it feels a bit contrived, even cheesy, as Go with God may feel to some. But as with Aloha, it has layers upon layers of meaning. First and foremost, it reminds both the speaker and receiver that we are part of and utterly dependent on Gaia—the primary message of the Gaian Way—and that we should never forget or get habituated to that reality. If we don’t go with Gaia, then, pretty soon, we won’t go at all.

Second, it’s a reminder to serve Gaia and follow Gaia’s laws. In just a Gaian minute we will return to being an undifferentiated part of Gaia. This is our moment to revel in conscious life, yes, but, as well, it is our moment to serve Gaia, which at this moment means healing Her and human society. snow writingThough perhaps in the future our role will be something grander—helping to birth new planetary beings (Gaia’s children) perhaps—but not if we don’t get our house in order first.

And third, it means to spend time with Gaia—meditate outside, garden, hike, and understand Gaia’s vast complexity, through plant and animal identification, birdsong, scientific study, art, or whatever other aspects of Gaia you want to explore and connect with.

By using language strategically, we can shape our own minds, and perhaps over time, even shape others’, subtly, even unconsciously—something I’m reminded of every time I instinctively say “Bless you” when someone sneezes. To say language is powerful is a gross understatement. And knowing that, we get to choose how we use it.

Go with Gaia,


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2 Responses

  1. Bart Everson

    I heartily approve of your valediction, and your careful choice to sign your posts. I typically write from a very personal perspective, but strangely enough when I started trying to write from a Gaian perspective, I dropped the first person entirely. At the time I told myself I was just experimenting, but your reflection makes me think maybe there was more to it than that.

  2. Tom Read

    “Go with Gaia” makes a lot of sense to me, Erik. I appreciate your thinking about this valediction from different angles, then producing a result that is both logical and feels just right (at least to me).

    Thank you.

    And Go with Gaia


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