Saturday, April 01, 2006

fools: in defense of

Every year the first of April arrives and tries to remind us of something important.

But every year the message gets lost as the embarassing displays become more embarassing. Unfortunately, this year was no exception. Scoble joins Google! Yahoo buys all Web 2.0 companies! Wikipedia creates a comprehsive index of all April Fools hoaxes (really)!

It has been written by the smart and the clever that "they can't wait for the first of April to be over". And why not. Like all unsightly spasms, the faux inventiveness of the day leaves them feeling regretful and used and more than ready to return to their regularly scheduled daily diets of . . . sober, razor-sharp business . . . businessing and. . . technologizing.

When there is so much truly important stuff to work/opine/kibitz on, we humor April Fools Day as something for eight-year old practical jokers and OMG BARBIE LINUX LOL!!1!!!!

Which is too bad. April Fools Day is dedicated to the Fool, not the Idiot (sorry Fyodor). There's a difference.

As an archetype, the Fool is without question the most transformative and I would argue the most pervasive. A close relative of the trickster and the jester, the Fool is found in all major cultures, whether as the Native American's Coyote, the laughing Buddha, the Puca of Celtic myths, the Hanuman of Hindu traditions. . . the list goes on and on.

In the tarot - a big box of archetypes if ever there was one - the very first card of the major arcana is The Fool, who June Kaminski describes as follows:

The Fool is the ultimate "Free Spirit" - this card represents the self-actualized person, free from societal constraints, someone who is able to let go of outmoded beliefs and ideals with the courage to pursue their own special path.
There's even an argument to be made that the Fool is actually the hero of the Tarot, and the Major Arcana is the path the Fool takes through the great mysteries of life. This argument is supported by the image of the Fool in the tarot as a young man taking a step off a cliff - is he about to do something truly stupid, or is he making a leap of faith? Is he taking a fateful step into a new world, or just f-----g up again? (I like Kierkegaard's answer.)

My favorite representation of the Fool arrives at the end of the year. The traditional French Christmas creche contains not just the Christ child, manger scene and assorted animals, but a variety of traditional French village personalities. One is a familiar figure called Le Ravi, a young man with his arms in the air, overcome with joy. There are a variety of translations for Le Ravi: a common one is The Village Simpleton, who is described as "un villageois un peu simple qui lève les bras en signe d’admiration."

The Fool embraces uncertainty and change - then he takes that first fateful step. Whether he fails or succeeds, he makes the attempt. This is why I love April Fool's Day, because it is the one day each year when it's OK to be daring, extraordinary and maybe even a bit foolish. And each year, a few of the Foolish become overcome with joy, raise their hands up, and start something new.

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