The Wisdom of the Fool

Bring into your mind a particular fool you've met in your life. Perhaps one that simply at the sound of his name, or at the sight of his ridiculous visage; you cringe and dread any kind of idle meaningless conversation. We have learned, since children to avoid fools, to seek out the wise, and the successful. The fool is someone who doesn't know where he is going, doesn't know who he is, and doesn't seem to be capable of intelligent conversation of any kind. He is certainly a laugh though. Funnily enough, in our own unwise and ignorant tendencies, we look down on the fool. Poor fool we say, he knows nothing of his own suffering, he knows nothing of the world around him. How could such a person continue living? Because he is ignorant? Because he does knows naught that the life he leads is unbearable? Instead of looking down on the fool, and in extension, the crazy man, that homeless guy on the street asking you for a smoke and a light; or that wonderful philosopher Diogenes, who, despite living in a barrel, subtly inspired the way we think today. What if the man who acts unpredictably, who cannot be controlled or quarreled with for his own outlandishness, is in fact closest to the divine principle?

So then, the fool. Who is he? Is he truly stupid, or simply viewed as such by his peers. Throughout history, throughout all recorded time, which archetypal figure has been along side us, criticizing and pestering us with light hearted judgment. When Alexander the Great, arguably one of the greatest ever historical figures, asked Diogenes if he wished to be moved to a home, something appropriate of a philosopher such as Plato, he simply said: "Actually if you could move just to the left" Astounded, Alexander asked why.

"Because you are blocking my view of the sun."

Carrying a lantern lit in the daylight, he claimed always to be looking for an honest man, and restrained himself to poverty and begging.

So indeed he must have been a fool, for denouncing social norms and comfort of a home and food. But was he really? This is a topic I will readily explore. It is very easy to accept social norms (using this as a blanket term for behaviors and goals shared by any particular society), to see that the views of our peers and the way they view us and our actions to be of much value. It is the position of great struggle however, to truly think. Thinking outside of the constraints of social norm or what is considered to be normal, the fool, ever wise, follows not the grossly accepted wisdom of his family and friends; but seems instead to relish in the formation of his own ideas. It seems that in every fool, there is in truth a wisdom within the simplicity and strangeness of his argument. Buddha and Jesus were themselves considered fools for what was quite a large portion of their lives; Jesus' "foolishness" led him to his death. But it was also what was deemed as naught but the ramblings of an arrogant fool, that brought him resurrection. (Full disclosure, I am neither claiming that Jesus was indeed the son of the Christian God, or indeed any sort of supernatural being. I am only using his legend as a frame of reference to help prove a point, as people have been doing for centuries, but that's another discussion). The fool is most in touch with himself, and does not seem to hold the pretenses of one who thinks himself either above, or below the Universe in potion of action. (Position of action meaning, whether one believes ultimately that the Universe pushes him around or that he must fight with nature in order to push it around. Both extremes of course, being the sources of many of our social and environmental issues today.) He seems utterly aware of the shortcomings of others, and does not seem to consciously extend this to himself. He is relatively unselfconcious, at least; the fool who is a 'joker' is, and he never fails to see the humour in a horrible situation. In classic stories we see the fool ever present at the side of the king, always there to remind him of one thing: He is still just a man. What greater wisdom can there be than to remind oneself, and to remind others, that they are not gods nor incredibly powerful, nor omniscient (no matter how much we try to be), or in fact very understanding of anything ever at all. He reminds us we are but human. And that is his trick, because to be ultimately human, is to be ultimately everything. Consider this.

The ultimate fool is perhaps in fact, a child. Always spontaneous, never truly looking ahead nor looking behind, the child is fresh and new, ready to thrust into being. The beauties and horrors of life lay before him, and even being told this, he is entirely unconcerned. Why? Because he is closest to the base of what is. Everything a child does, when watched closely, is all in action. When they are young enough to not have yet learned the marvelously useful tactic of a lie, everything they say, they do, and everything they do, (sometimes rather annoyingly), they say. They seem to have the implicit knowledge that their actions are more valuable than any Shakespeare, or any form of gold and wine we can offer them. When offered the greatest of philosophical texts and the most serious of moral dichotomies, and the greatest contests of good and evil, the most fantastic pleasures of food and music; the child, and indeed the wise man will say: "If you could just move to the left slightly, I'd like to see the sun, and to play outside".

The fool reminds us all of the infallibly incomprehensible nature of the Universe, and each in his particular way; shows us that in fact we are the fools ourselves in trying to understand and control it. Me writing this right now is in fact, nothing but a fool's errand. Beyond Good and Evil, The Republic, The Bible, The Tao, Tao te Ching; all just fools trying not to be fools. All men, trying to be more than he is. When is fact, all that man strives for, all that which he wishes to achieve is right there in front of him. In fact he is looking at it all the time, and yet in his marvelously foolish way, he gets lost in himself and decides to become increasingly understanding of the natural processes and dances of the world. In doing so, he is blinded, and in thinking that he now understands, he knows truly, nothing.

Who is the best student. He who is young and foolish, for he knows nothing, and will learn anything not imposed upon him with grace and fortitude. Who must one become before he becomes the hero of his own illusory story? The fool. The fool stumbles about knowing nothing at all, with and with a twinkle in his eye transforms himself into the hero who goes out and "Gets the golden goodie". So who truly is the wise man? The sage who proclaims himself to know the nature of life, and who is enlightened in the best way possible as presented to him by his culture? I think not. He who is willing to be foolish, and knows ultimately that we all are fools, lost in the Universe's game, and he is wise enough to see that it is a game; and after all is said and done, do nothing but have a good bite of fruit, and a belly resounding laugh.

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