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The Lucilius Parables, Volume I


September 25th, 2018

If we look at the archetypical ‘fool’ we will see a contradiction.  The fool derives from the court jester. A funny man who was simultaneously laughed at but also had the singular power of making fun of the king to his face and in front of everyone else.  This contradictory dichotomy should never be far from our minds when we think of someone as stupid.  Inherent in the very thing we laugh at, might be a power and a knowledge that is beyond our abilities.


With the court jester, we may ask what’s easier: to follow all the rules of the court and ‘get by’, or to be smart enough to make fun of the king to his face and get away with it?  Actually both require a humbling amount of self-debasement, however the jester’s is more obvious, it’s on display in a ridiculous way which at once nullifies it and grants him powers beyond anyone around him.


The mask of the fool provides a perfect camouflage, like a great white shark that can dress up like a harmless flamingo, we do not necessarily realize what we are looking at.


We might be reminded of Yoda’s crazy old-geezer act when he first encounters Luke.  He acts like a fool on purpose in order to demonstrate an important lesson: things are not always as they appear and the very thing you are seeking might be in the place that you spurn.  Luke realizes that he himself is the real fool.


Or we might think of the Beatles singing about the fool on the hill who can see the big picture but who is listened to by no one.


The fool as an archetype represents in a mythic way what the psychologist Daniel Kahneman elucidates about human nature: that our instincts and our impressions of things are often very wrong.


It’s the moments when we realize we are wrong that the whole concept of the fool turns inside-out.  We realize that we have been the fool all along for thinking a certain way, and with such a realization we become a little less foolish.  It appears that a fool is simply a person who believes he is not a fool.


Luckily there are plenty of stupid fools walking around that should serve as reminders of this counter-intuitive tendency of life.  But to remember this appropriately is to be wary of all those stupid fools.


The only fool in this case might be one’s self.

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Podcast Ep. 163: What the Fool Believes

Tinkered Thinking

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