One evening in April my son Ken, still only five-years-old, asked an interesting thing to my wife as the three of us bedded down side-by-side in our futons for the night.
“Is God a strong man?”
“Yes,” mother answered.
“Why doesn’t God kill all the bad people?”
“God doesn’t kill people, because He is good and good is always stronger than bad.”
“Do you understand?” I checked.
The point I wanted to make is that there is good and bad in everyone’s “kokoro,”or heart, and so it is impossible to “kill” the “bad” without also destroying a lot of good. In addition, there is the lesson of Free Will and individual moral responsibility - favorite topics of mine. But, of course, Ken is a decade away from engaging in dialogues like that.
Instead, I said - and Junko supported me afterwards - that because good is stronger than bad, then if he is good people around him will also be disposed towards reciprocal goodness. I know that it is not literally true, but he’s only 5-years-old, after all.
He settled down to sleep after that, but I was left thinking about the suddenness of his question. He was lying there, talking to his mother about one-thing-or-another - nursery school, or food, or television, or some such - and then suddenly this question about God broke the surface and quickly disappeared again. Sort of like whale-watching. You’re out in a boat not even knowing if you will see anything at all. Then, suddenly, off the port bow you see a vapor spout, an arching spine, and a tail fluke rolling out of the dark deep, then rolling back into it, and that is all for that particular excursion: a day at sea for five seconds of excitement.
Maybe I can say, then, that is what raising children is like. Raising children is like whale-watching from a dinghy. If the beast rises too close you are in for choppy water. But from a distance things look pleasantly smooth.