On windless nights, the smoke curls into the air beneath the mango tree and I dream of space and time. The streetlights haven’t yet drowned out the night sky and a little self-satisfied homage comes to my lips:
Gabriel Gomes is my name
And Hawaii is my nation
Inside is my dwelling place
The Stars my destination
The stars… My ancestors set themselves adrift on little slips of wood using the lit points in the sky to guide them across the ocean to an uncertain fate. Their destination? Away from where ever they were. An overcrowded atoll, famine, chiefs or priests drunk on power. I don’t know. When they got here, as far they were concerned they’d always been here, and so they told themselves that even as they remembered the way to get back to the distant place from whence they came. As for myself, I share only a small portion of their blood and am I able to love a becalmed night that is nothing but a harrowing wait for a gust of wind to a shivering adventurer in the middle of the sea. If they would dream, perhaps they would dream of the Island of Kane rising from the mists to welcome them with verdant hills grown over with fruit trees and sweet fresh water rolling lazily down streams. They had the faith to believe in something out there in the uncharted ocean. My skepticism would be as alien to them as the car passing by in the night is mundane to me.
When you are a boy it is easy to have faith in the stories you read in the dusty old paperbacks at the back of the study hall. That people would fill little slips of metal and toss themselves towards the sky, embracing uncertainty and gambling against mortality because it was out there. Now, I am an educated man. I know that we don’t spend lives and money on grand gestures of faith. The body of knowledge argues against it on economies of scale, and the body politic concerns itself with the here and now. The greatest good is to live long, pay your taxes and then die safely in bed. If this world is not to your liking, then legislate against it. But there is no escape. Contain your dreams, young man; a little robot will go further than any man has gone and widen our knowledge… Oh, but will he widen our souls? Maybe by a small measure, as a piece of a failed Manila Galleon stirred questions in the hearts of natives when it washed ashore. A small reminder of of the possibility of strange worlds unseen. But I am speaking a dead language. It’s the language of dreamy boys in study hall who lacking faith in the scriptures of Sunday School placed a metaphysical burden on science that it could not carry into adulthood, except on becalmed nights when it could float up from the oceans of repose to vanish again in the daily news cycle.