I was in a good mood today from the moment I woke up in the morning. It is that time of the month again, when I go have a nice bowl of tea and collect another one of what I call “pieces of peace.” I have grown very fond of this event, because the host of the tea service always fills the tea room with an abundance of thoughtfulness and never fails to entertain me (and all other guests) with her charming hospitality.
This month, the theme of the tea service was chickens and eggs. In my homeland, temples and shrines which have birds of any kind as their enshrined deity hold “bird fests” on the days of the Rooster in November (don’t ask me how these days are determined, I just know they are called so!). In the olden days, people brought chickens as offerings (they were released the following day), and in turn were gifted with blessed rakes so they would be able to rake in lots of good luck in the coming year.
At the bottom, no chickens can be freely brought to the temples and shrines nowadays, so eggs were substituted as offerings; at the top, the blessed rake the host obtained at one of the bird-related shrines – no chickens to offer, so they have to be bought in our times!
When I went into the tea room, there were a couple of tourists that came in with me as fellow guests, so the host asked me to explain this tradition to them in English. Unfortunately, I was not able to do a very good job because I was not too familiar with it myself and could not find an easily understandable explanation. So although I enjoyed the tea service, my mood took a deep dive.
But she thanked me anyway at the end, and took an egg from the pyramid of offerings and gave it to me, saying “this is an egg of fortune for you – it will hatch to become the chicken you will be able to exchange for a blessed rake, which will rake in lots of good luck next year!”
Of course, she was joking – the egg is from a pack bought at the grocery store, so it will not actually hatch. But what a witty way to say “better luck next time”… my mood shot right back up instantly and I could not be happier to have come to the tea service today!
I had quite a few people look at me funny on my way home – I would too, if I saw someone dressed in traditional wear holding a naked egg with a big smile on the face on public transportation – but it did not bother me because my egg of fortune shielded me from all inquisitive eyes.
Ordinary egg no more, an egg of fortune evermore!
So, which comes first?
Good mood or happy feelings?
Being good or being lucky?
Chicken (for offering) or egg (of fortune)?
Maybe the order is not that important, so long as one follows the other endlessly.
Maybe if we can make perpetual cycles out of them, it does not matter so much where we start.
And maybe there is another pair for which a perpetual cycle would be a good model to uphold:
The sixth of eight verses of a sacred chant praying for world peace – the four characters say “neither soldiers nor weapons are needed.”
Disarmament or peace, whichever can come first. But I strongly hope we can make a perpetual cycle out of them… let us start wherever we can.