Friday, February 3, 2012

Throwing out the Old

This was on the kid's phone on Setsuban!
Phone changes from a cute onni to a scary onnni!
Setsuban and Throwing out the Old
Today is Setsuban, a holiday celebrated in Japan. The tradition is that you throw beans at onni devils, throwing out the bad, and making room for the good. It is an indication of early spring on the lunar calendar as well. I was curious how this annual rite was practiced at school. The Mule was at the doctor's office, but the Moose, in first grade, was excited to go to school for this event today. His class had made onni or devil mask earlier in the week.

The Moose said in his class everyone wrote down on a piece of paper things that they wanted to get rid of and put the papers into a box. They then threw balls (not beans) at the box. I asked him, "What did you want to get rid of?" He responded in Japanese, "Okorinbo!" I had to ask, "What's that?" "You know, getting mad all the time," he informed me. I chuckled. His temper flares into the hot head realm at times.


The Blessing within
Earlier in the week, I had listened to a conversation on a show titled "Pursuing Happiness" from On Being between Krista Tippet, the Dalai Lama, a Jewish Rabbi, a Muslim scholar, and an Episcopal priest. The Jewish Rabbi said something from the Jewish perspective that I have thought about several times this week, it's about wallowing in your grief:
When something bad happens, I will not let go of that bad thing until I have discovered the blessing that lies within it.
Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
I liked that because it allows a space for wrestling with difficult feelings and it offers some guidance on where to aim. A friend recently commented that my blog "was my therapy." This shocked me a bit. I wondered what line I had crossed. Writing raw thoughts without a filter perhaps reads this way, but my intention is to examine and consider more closely things that catch me, my wrestling matches.


Space to Wrestle
There's no place for us to wrestle with difficulty. The Rabbi's directive to use the suffering to find blessing seems necessary. Having a holiday to get rid of the bad to make way for the new and hopefully good also seems necessary. I can't think where we do this in the American culture. Morphing into something new is ok, but with the wallowing in the old, I always feels like we are supposed to skip this step. How can you let of something you aren't supposed to hold onto?

Don't let the Onni catch you! Tell the angel you aren't letting go until it blesses you! And eat some beans- the same number as your age for good luck at least here in Japan.