Spring is early this year. I'm a little concerned, thinking it might have to do with the effects of global warming, but when the cold begins to let up and it begins to get warmer, it just naturally makes you feel cheerful and lighthearted. The temperature in Tokyo yesterday went up to a high of 23.9 degrees (Centigrade), which was 11.3 degrees (Centigrade) warmer than usual--the kind of weather we usually have at the end of May. In our garden at home, the iris started blooming a few days ago, the magnolia are in full bloom, and the golden bells are blooming as well. The snowflakes (flowers) started blooming yesterday and the toads in the pond have begun their grand love story. It was also proclaimed that the first strong winds of spring blew in the Kanto region. And the Meteorological Agency made an announcement that the cherry trees in Tokyo have started to blossom--the earliest ever recorded.
In this way, if we make such proclamations through words, we really feel like it's happening. It isn't as if the strong winds that we experience at the beginning of spring just started yesterday, and it's not as if the many cherry trees in Tokyo didn't have flowers before yesterday. However, when a public agency takes the opportunity to make solemn proclamations such as, "the first strong winds of spring are here" or "the cherry trees are in bloom", it's amazing that we are then able to switch our thinking over to "spring is here at last." While we're at it, it would be nice if someone would proclaim that "the Japanese economy has made it out of the recession" or "terrorists have been irradicated", but these aren't the same as the natural changes in the seasons that occur. Rather, it is a matter of Man's mind, so whether or not we can acquire any sort of credibility along these lines is questionable.
Then, how about the grand proclamation that "There is no evil"? Seicho-No-Ie has been saying this for over 70 years now, but, unfortunately, the number who don't believe this outnumber those who do. Despite this, the mayor in a town in the southern United States made this proclamation, and has created quite a stir. More precisely, this mayor signed and stamped a proclamation that said, "Satan is not now, nor ever again will be, a part of this town." She then placed it on four posts at the town borders, reports today's edition of the International Herald Tribune.
This person is Carolyn Risher, mayor of Inglis, a town with a population of approximately 1400, located about 120 kilometers north of Tampa in West Florida. Risher said she wrote the proclamation, guided by the "voice of God" that she heard on Halloween night of last year. The idea of placing the proclamation on the posts was suggested by a minister of a church in the town. Behind all this, however, is the fact that the young people of the town have started wearing strange types of clothing, have been rumored to be using drugs, and the increase of domestic violence. There is a big difference between, "There is no evil" and "banning Satan." The former denies the existence of evil itself, while the latter recognizes the existence of evil, and goes on to proclaim that it will not be a part of one's existence. To introduce a part of this proclamation, it says, "Satan, ruler of darkness, giver of evil, destroyer of what is good and just, is not now, nor ever again will be, a part of this town of Inglis. Satan is powerless and can no longer control or have any influence on any of our citizens." This is clearly recognizing the existence of Satan, so perhaps, in this case, the principle of "That which is recognized, appears" applies.
Immediately after issuing the proclamation "banning Satan", the Town Hall phones began to ring. And, when someone answered, there would be a voice that said, "This is Satan. Is the Mayor in?" "Is this Caroline? This is Satan. I know you really like me." Of course, these are tasteless pranks, but even worse was when, in the beginning of March, the posts on which the proclamation had been attached were stolen. The town immediately made duplicate copies of the proclamation, and, this time, put them inside the posts, and, last week put the posts in concrete blocks. The police authorities say that there are very few people on Satan's side, and the majority of the citizens are united together to "obey the law."
In the United States, where the "separation of church and state" is emphasized, it's surprising that all this actually happened. That's probably how much Christian thinking has permeated American society. Let's think about whether or not there is a possibility that this could happen in Japan. It doesn't seem possible, but perhaps the Japanese custom of scattering beans to ward off evil spirits corresponds to this. The Japanese word "oni", when translated into English, is "demon", and there are some dictionaries that translate "demon" as "Satan". Strictly speaking, though, "oni" is neither "devil" nor "Satan", but something close to that. So, if they had this bean scattering ceremony in the town and city halls of Japan, would it be a violation of the "separation of church and state?" Now we're getting a bit complicated, but it seems that, as far as that type of proclamation is concerned, it is already being done in various places throughout Japan. So, I guess we can think of it as being just one more step before they proclaim, "There is no evil."