Mea Culpa & Sweet Bean

160823 mea culpa sweet bean STANDARD THOUGHTS

With biscuits in one hand – do they still call them ‘cookies’ in America? How quaint – and a coke in the other, I watched a subtitled, Japanese video last evening, loaned to me by a barista. We’re a friendly lot, here!

Dear Tokue – an elderly lady, like everyone’s favourite aunt – loves nature, and the video has some awesome clips of cherry blossom in full bloom in the city, the full moon in all its glory shyly peaking through the trees with its eternal gaze, and wonderful lush, verdant forest views as seen through Tokue’s eyes. Awesome!

Truly, the forest is my church.

But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? Job 12:7-9, The Book

Seeking work, she starts working for a man who bakes dorayaki – small pancakes which are filled with a sweet bean spread – and she dotes over the beans she cooks. Listening to them, she describes them as an engaged couple who need time, in the pot, to get to know each other. Unhurried!

Tokue has a mother-and-son-like relationship toward the baker, and she’s employed by him because she makes the best sweet bean spread he’s ever tasted. She endears herself to all that see her, and if you watch the movie – highly recommended – you will want to adopt her. Lovely!

The movie unfolds in surprising and deep ways, and centres on friendship, life’s toughness, simple pleasures and the wonderfulness of nature. I forgot to tell you that Tokue had, or had had, Hansen’s Disease – Leprosy.  And she is suddenly shunned! Lonely!

The video is about many things: a metaphorical birth, a  death, and ‘resurrection’….and prejudice! The latter is the ‘whispered soundtrack’ that runs throughout the video, that subliminally works away, unknown, and so you will be both settled and unsettled.

And, that’s where this wonderful movie will challenge you? Prejudice. What prejudices do we have to others?

I once attended a sermon at which the preacher said the reason the Celts saw the Holy Spirit as a wild goose/grey goose (and not as a dove) was because of how little they understood theology. I gasped at how wrong he was! Saddened that he was missing out. Concerned that those listening were being misinformed, and the prejudice would produce ‘offspring’ in them.

I read and online, one evangelical website was describing how well Christians behaved of old (really?), and how Wicca people had kidnapped and burned victims in the most appalling circumstances (all of them, any of them?), and he went on to describe scenes that I knew took place in that wonderful , old movie, The Wicker Man. That wonderful, old, fictitious movie. Fiction. I gasped at how wrong he was, and the impact it might have on others in the community.


But, if we’ve lived only a few short years we will have been on the receiving end of unjust and downright nasty prejudice, and probably wept inwardly at being subjected to it, if not outwardly.

But, if we’re really honest (and I’m sure you are), then we know that we, too, carry within us the ‘seeds’ of prejudice that pour out and scandalise others, if we’re not careful.

I confess, somewhat embarrassedly, that there have been times in the past when, like the pastor, I’ve been prejudiced against those who think differently to me, those from another ‘tribe’. There have been circumstances when I’ve interpreted facts badly, on mere hear-say, and said things that I now know to be wrong.  I confess – hoping that I’ve made amends, and knowingly don’t continue in such prejudice; but do so knowing that you might think less of me, or even ‘unfriend’ me.

But, there is part of me that hopes you wont ‘unfriend’ me, if only because you’re honest enough to admit that, at one time, you have also been guilty of the same spiritual misdemeanour of prejudice, as me.

‘So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.’ Matthew 7:12, The Book.

I once got a group of people together once, and as an exercise, asked them to write their own obituary. Oh, how shocked they were! But, what a good challenge it presented them with, and what an open, honest, authentic and tearful (in a good way) plenary session we had.

So, are you sitting comfortably? How will people remember you? You might like to try the exercise yourself. It’s a good way to note (and change) as-yet imperceptible prejudices we might have.

I wont tell you what happens to Tokue at the end of the video, except that this dear, little lady has an impact far and wide, and her beautiful, love-borne legacy lives on. She is remembered.

— oOo–
Video: Sweet Bean
PG. 1hr 53mins
Director: Naomi Kawase
Writers: Durian Sukegawa (based on the novel by), Naomi Kawase (screenplay)
Stars: Kirin Kiki, Masatoshi Nagase, Kyara Uchida


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