Thursday, February 16, 2006


On Friday night - which was Setsubun, the first day of the Lunar Spring - in keeping with an ancient Japanese tradition the visiting grandkids got the chance to shout "Out with the devil! In with good fortune!" at the top of their voices over and over while throwing handfuls of roasted soybeans out into the darkness from all the doorways of the house. It was interesting to see how they handled it.

A lot of folks are cynical about the rituals of tradition, especially ancient tradition, such as Setsubun is. Cynicism is one of the cheaper philosophies, requiring no real experience or thought (indeed, it is diminished by both). But anyone who has actually lived and perceptively experienced what is out in the world knows full well that there is value in traditional metaphoric/symbolic reminders of the ideal, and worth in speaking out for it.

There is uplift to ritual (the other side of science) as well, in thus asserting - as in Setsubun - that we have a measure of control over the presence or absence of "the devil" and over our own fortunes. It is of deep worth to remind ourselves of this and to teach our children that they too have individual power (not surrendered power, as to a political or religious organization) that can be personally brought to bear on behalf of goodness and bright fortune not only for themselves, but for their entire household and all its members, and by extension, society itself.

Setsubun is an anciently tacit – though noisy - erasure of animosities and a rebuke to the untoward. By flinging hard beans in the face of misfortune you are showing the night your strength, shouting out to the darkness without as well as within (the house and yourself) that you care about the entities that reside here, that you are responsible for and will defend this place, for this household and its members are shared in your charge.

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