What Kind of Fool do You Think I am?

April 1, 2015 § 4 Comments

Let us today depart from our customary annual April Fool’s Day practical jokes, and instead focus our attention on that Everyman of the present era – the Fool. This is, after all, his (or her) day.

The information age is a paradisiacal era for Fools, what with social media, faux journalism, opinion outlets, and, yes, I daresay – blogs – that are fabulously fertile ground for Fools to grow and disseminate their fecund Foolishness.

Fools are in the news headlines daily. It’s the heyday of Foolishness and folly.

The birthmark of a Fool is lack of good sense and judgment. It’s a topic we’ve discussed here before.

On this their own special day, then, let’s ponder what wiser men have said of them:

“The trouble ain’t that there is too many Fools, but that the lightning ain’t distributed right”  —  Mark Twain

“A Fool always finds a greater Fool to admire him”  —  Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux

“I have great faith in Fools — self-confidence my friends will call it”  —  Edgar Allen Poe

“A man may be a Fool and not know it, but not if he is married”  —  H.L. Mencken

“A Fool must now and then be right by chance”  —  William Cowper

“A Fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees”  —  William Blake

“For, as blushing will sometimes make a whore pass for a virtuous woman, so modesty may make a Fool seem a man of sense”  —  Alexander Pope

“A prosperous Fool is a grievous burden”  —  Aeschylus

“Even a Fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise”  —  Proverbs, 17:28.

“The greatest men may ask a Foolish question, now and then”  —  John Wolcot

There is actually a patron saint of Fools. Saint Simeon, the Holy Fool, a sixth-century monk, is revered as the patron saint of “holy fools and puppeteers.” Holy Fools, as I understand it, are those who are “Fools for Christ’s sake” (1 Cor. 4:10), rejecting riches and other worldly things for spiritual pursuits. I am not here to judge, but Simeon’s activities seem to be of the more outré variety: dragging a dead dog through the gate of a city, inciting schoolchildren to call him crazy; pretending to have a limp, and other times jumping around; dragging himself along on his buttocks; tripping people walking by; baying and staring at the new moon; thrashing about; extinguishing lights in church and throwing nuts at women; overturning the tables of pastry chefs; and doing other similar capers that got him insulted, beaten, and abused, all of which he endured with good patience. By today’s foolish standards, those kind of stunts seem more mildly eccentric than foolish, but, hey, I guess that’s what made him a holy Fool as opposed to a wholly Fool.

Oh, and I still don’t understand what puppeteers did to be dragged into this discussion.

While we’re on the subject of saints, I should mention that April 1 is the feast day of St. Hugh of Grenoble, per the Catholic calendar. Although he lived in the eleventh century, he sounds like the kind of guy who faced down some of the same kinds of foolishness that nettle us today. This from a Catholic web site:

Hugh, who served as a bishop in France for 52 years, had his work cut out for him from the start. Corruption seemed to loom in every direction: the buying and selling of Church offices, violations of clerical celibacy, lay control of Church property, religious indifference and/or ignorance. After serving as bishop for two years, he’d had his fill. He tried disappearing to a monastery, but the pope called him back to continue the work of reform.

That just goes to show that, when it comes to Fools and foolishness, the passage of centuries does not appear to have any significantly remedial effect. Jonathan Swift spoke in 1726 of a Fool’s Folly in Gulliver’s Travels:

“He had been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw, inclement summers.”

Come to think of it, that sounds suspiciously like the prospectus for a 2015 Silicon Valley IPO offering that would likely attract billions from investors.

Which brings to mind the old adage, “A Fool and his money are soon parted.”

Have a happy and prosperous April Fool’s Day.

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