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  • The fool is one of the most relatable, intriguing and recurring figures in the world.

  • There have been fools who have caused surprise and laughter since time immemorial.

  • We worship folly by seeing it in people and in the world and by willingly displaying it

  • in ourselves.

  • It is one of the timeless archetypes, which we all inherit at birth.

  • Many of us suffer from the absence of the fool in our lives.

  • Frenetic and upright, we take ourselves too seriously, trying so hard to conform to a

  • world which promotes workaholism, efficiency, and productivity that we might as well be

  • cogs in a machine.

  • As William Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely

  • players.”

  • Forgetting that playfulness is a basic human need, we wonder why we so easily become bored

  • and exhausted, losing all capacity for spontaneity, authenticity, and passion.

  • The antidote to this would be to give the fool archetype some space in our lives.

  • To be in balance, and not become excessively foolish and irresponsible, we need to develop

  • the archetype of the sage, who despite being wise, recognises the limits of his knowledge,

  • and can laugh at himself every now and then.

  • Archetypes are not part of a mechanical system, but pieces of life itselfimages that

  • are integrally connected to the living individual by the bridge of the emotions.

  • The character of the fool is complex, and various characteristics have been attributed

  • to the fool: that he is dull-witted, inarticulate, unable to conform to the conventional standards

  • of behaviour; and that he has a natural simplicity and innocence of heart.

  • The derivation of the wordfoolis the Latinfollis”, meaning a pair of bellows

  • expelling empty air; extended to people, it implies an empty-headed person, with insubstantial

  • thoughts.

  • At the same time, bellows furnish the oxygen needed for combustion in much the same way

  • that the foolfires us up”.

  • In 1511, the Dutch scholar Erasmus published In Praise of Folly, which became hugely popular

  • and is a profoundly penetrating examination of the fool in Western literature.

  • Folly introduces herself, and since nobody ever praises Folly, she begins by praising

  • herself, arguing that life would be dull without her.

  • Folly criticises everyone, and Erasmusclose friends warned him of the possible dangers

  • of attacking the church.

  • However, even religious figures found the work amusing.

  • Friendship and marriage contain a certain amount of folly, because we tend to overlook

  • the defects of our friends and loved ones, and consider themsmall vicesin comparison

  • to other people.

  • Intellectuals are foolish in their pursuit of knowledge, spending years going to the

  • library, doing research, thinking that what they are doing is tremendously important,

  • so that a few other intellectuals over of a century will read their book and think very

  • highly of it.

  • Folly compares philosophers to theatre critics who unmask the characters onstage and ruin

  • the actorsperformance.

  • They are boring and annoying.

  • Philosophers don't seem to understand how the illusions that help make life bearable

  • are useful even if they distort reality.

  • The fool seems to be infinitely freer and happier than those who are burdened by wisdom.

  • They are the life of the party.

  • Fools always speak the truth because they lack the wisdom to craft lies and seek to

  • manipulate others.

  • In essence, there is nothing that can make life happier than the joy that accompanies

  • laughter and play.

  • Folly is not merely universal, but necessary and even desirable to humanity, to be a person

  • is nothing other than to play the fool, and to acknowledge this very fact is the highest

  • form of wisdom.

  • The fool represents a nostalgic return to a simpler way of life, a wisdom that comes

  • not from the mind but from the heart.

  • Sometimes the down-to-earth and simpleminded, in their purity of heart, can penetrate to

  • profounder truths than those encumbered with learning and convention, in the same way we

  • sometimes sense a more resonant truth in popular proverbs than in rational exposition.

  • Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky writes: “The wisest of all, in my opinion, is he

  • who can, if only once a month, call himself a fool — a faculty unheard of nowadays.”

  • In literature, wise characters sometimes depict insanity and madmen express wisdom.

  • The oxymoron, “wise fool”, is a literal paradox where the character who is identified

  • as a fool comes to be regarded as the beholder of wisdom.

  • People sometimes accuse wise people of insanity in order toconcealtheir unwanted wisdom

  • either fearing the harsh words on many controversial topics or simply to punish them for speaking

  • boldly.

  • The archetypal wise fool is Socrates.

  • Not only was his educational method based on exposing the folly of the supposedly wise,

  • but he himself claimed that his own wisdom was derived from an awareness of his ignorance.

  • Knowledge of ignorance is itself a kind of knowledge.

  • As Shakespeare writes: “The fool doth think he is wise, but the

  • wise man knows himself to be a fool.”

  • There are two ways to be fooled.

  • One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.

  • When there’s an uncomfortable truth that needs to be spoken, and those in power are

  • afraid to speak about it, it is usually the fool who steps in.

  • There is something heroic about this.

  • It is the fool who speaks a truth nobody else dares to utter, and this brings instant relief,

  • because people know it has to be said.

  • Generally speaking, we can distinguish between two types of fools: the natural fool, who

  • lacks social awareness and occasionally utters the truth being unaware of social conventions,

  • and the professional fool, whose job it is to make harsh truths more palatable by disguising

  • them with humour and wit.

  • One follows his heart, the other his mind.

  • The greatest fools are often times cleverer than the people who laugh at them.

  • The fool is fearless in speaking the truth.

  • In fact, the great secret of the successful fool is that he is no fool at all.

  • As the great English visionary artist William Blake writes:

  • If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.”

  • The fool, the clown, and the trickster share similar traits.

  • They are sources of humour, inevitably eliciting laughter, serving as catalysts for comic catharsis.

  • However, they also express a duality: folly and non-folly, order and disorder.

  • What may seem like a joke, can in fact be a warning.

  • Danish theologian and philosopherren Kierkegaard writes:

  • “A fire broke out backstage in a theatre.

  • The clown came out to warn the public; they thought it was a joke and applauded.

  • He repeated it; the acclaim was even greater.

  • I think that’s just how the world will come to an end: to general applause from wits who

  • believe it’s a joke.”

  • Professional fools can bring a sense of awareness

  • to what is going on in the world, and where we are headed.

  • Many of them, however, come from a place of tragedy.

  • The contradictory association between comedy and mental disorders (such as depression and

  • anxiety) is known as the sad clown paradox, where comedy can act as a defence mechanism

  • to remove supressed feelings of rage and aggression.

  • People may respond with laughter at the clown, yet harbour feelings of pity, fear or repulsion

  • evoking ambivalent reactions.

  • Some people, in fact, suffer from coulrophobiathe overwhelming fear of clowns.

  • In this day and age, clowns are a constant source of horror in books and movies.

  • Perhaps this is because the modern clown’s role is always the same: to entertain others

  • by being the subject of laughter, and he is not always successful at it.

  • The clown has to sacrifice his well-being by always having to put on the same face,

  • and play the same character.

  • This one-sidedness can take its toll mentally, and the clown slowly becomes enveloped by

  • his shadow, the dark side of his personality.

  • The evil clown archetype is best portrayed in The Joker, one of the most recognisable

  • villain characters in popular culture.

  • In medieval theatre, clowns would not only make spectators laugh, but sometimes also

  • snatch them off with them into a Hellmouth, the entrance of hell envisaged as the gaping

  • mouth of a monster, which scared the audiences.

  • Thus, their light and dark sides were balanced.

  • The fool and the trickster have a few psychological differences as well.

  • Generally speaking, the fool is presented as an innocent or naïve figure, who wouldn’t

  • hurt a fly, while the trickster is intentionally deceptive, and seeks to trick others and laugh

  • at them.

  • The trickster loves engaging in what the Germans call schadenfreude (literallyharm-joy”),

  • in which one obtains pleasure from learning or witnessing the misfortunes, failures, or

  • humiliation of another person.

  • A trickster may console others when they fail, and hide that internally he feels joy.

  • When there is an opportunity to play a trick on another person, the trickster immediately

  • seizes the opportunity.

  • The fool, however, is not interested in laughing at a person, but rather laughing with the

  • person, or laugh at himself.

  • To laugh at oneself helps to break the ice, because it not only removes one’s own persona,

  • but also the audience’s social mask, allowing for genuine behaviour.

  • This courageous feat throws one in a vulnerable state, which allows others to open up and

  • receive a message more profoundly, While the fool likes to entertain others,

  • and is usually the butt of a joke, the trickster, on the other hand, seeks primarily to entertain

  • himself, even if it is at the expense of others.

  • The fool is able to have a sense of humour even in difficult situations, which radiates

  • hope in others.

  • In a tense atmosphere, the person who is hurt takes the risk to make a joke, even if it

  • means making a fool of himself, not just to set himself at ease, but also to bring relief

  • to others.

  • When a person acts like a fool through some kind of outward action, it is immediately

  • apparent to the audience.

  • With the trickster, it is more ambiguous, he plays like a fool in order for people to

  • fall into his trap.

  • The trickster tricks others who never expect to be tricked.

  • In medieval times, the court jester’s job was to entertain the aristocracy in a wide

  • variety of ways: music, storytelling, satire, comedy, or juggling and acrobatics.

  • It was believed that keeping a fool in the premises warded off the evil eye.

  • This is no antiquated superstition; it represents a psychological truth of enduring value.

  • It is usually a good idea to place the fool out front where we can keep an eye on him.

  • We must make room for the renegade factor in ourselves and admit him to our inner court,

  • where he can bring us fresh ideas and new energy.

  • Without the fool’s blunt observations and playfulness, our inner landscape might become

  • a sterile wasteland.

  • During the Middle Ages, the Feast of Fools would be celebrated by the lower clergy on

  • New Year’s Day.

  • To ensure society against unexpected uprisings of latent destructive urges, all conventions

  • were temporarily suspended.