Monday, March 28, 2011

How to be a fool (and what’s in it for you)

The Doodle Fool poem and print by IntentionalArts

Scrollwork’s School for Fools, Part Three
See Part Two, Why you should listen to a fool
Not many folks take a fool seriously these days. But kings, pharaohs, tyrants, and despots knew to keep their fools close.
Today’s wise leader sets aside the chorus of yessayers to seek the fool’s counsel. You might suddenly find yourself in the role of the fool. If you have lousy luck, you’ll have a boss who hires you for your expertise but treats you like a fool—in the contemporary sense. Such people have either not heard or chosen to ignore the adage, “Don’t hire a dog and then do the barking yourself.”
What’s a modern fool to do? Here’s an idea: Embrace the role!
Do you want to overcome a fear of failure? Become a Court Jester. Are you afraid of looking like a fool? Then look like a fool with purpose and panache. Be contrary! Make fun of all sides of an idea! Buck the status quo! And whether you stand on the podium with a trophy or on the sidelines with egg on your face, you will have fed your soul and had fun in the process.
~ Timothy Johnson, Carpe Factum

There is something incredibly freeing about being the fool.

The artist is still a little like the old court jester. He's supposed to speak his vicious paradoxes with some sense in them, but he isn't part of whatever the fabric is that makes a nation.

~ William Faulkner
How do you prefer to offer help—as an expert or a fool?

Why you should listen to a fool. Especially your inner fool.

The Reluctant Fool by LeslieLeeArt
Scrollwork’s School for Fools, Part Two
See Part One, Scrollwork's School for Fools Now Open

Roger Van Oech has a favorite strategy for stimulating creative thinking: Think like a fool. Fools everywhere take this as a compliment.

Roger notes that besides being a truth-teller, a fool challenges assumptions, sees what others overlook, and takes the contrary position in ways that make us think twice. If nothing else, a fool, when heeded, may avert disaster that nobody sees coming.

Once, an institution atop a hill decided to mark a milestone. They would ask a local boy who had made good to return to his provincial hometown and speak at the event. Everyone praised the plan. They asked the new scribe to draft a letter of invitation. It was practically a done deal, as the local boy had already spoken at a previous milestone.

The scribe Googled the invitee’s accomplishments to flatter him with their mention. Six links down was a detailed account of a world-renowned institution’s grim displeasure at the invitee’s admitted plagiarism. Horrified, the scribe derailed the plan and appealed to the man in the corner office.

The experience was rather like pointing out the emperor’s butt nakedness as the fans praised his exquisite new duds. The scribe realized that in following her own code of ethics, she had taken on the role of the fool. Would anyone listen?

The chief pennyraiser’s concern was dealing delicately with the major moneygiver who had suggested inviting the plagiarist. After much hemming and hawing, the plan was scrapped. 

The institution then invited the Equivalent of the Queen, who accepted, to everyone’s shocked delight. The institution made history, as it was her first speech following the election coronation. The near-disaster with the disgraced local boy quickly faded from collective memory.

Nobody credited the fool, of course, but little did she care. Remember, a fool’s credo includes “A fool isn’t in it for the prestige.” (It would have been nice if the fool had been allowed to keep her job as scribe in acknowledgement of her one usefool moment, but why that wasn’t so is a convoluted story involving microbes as metaphor, told here.)

Third and last part: How to be a fool (and what's in it for you)

Scrollwork's School for Fools Now Open

Jester Kitty by tasteslikepurple

Would you turn to a fool for advice? Would you willingly come off as a fool to serve a purpose?

Got a question, ask an expert—how it’s usually done. But when you’re ready to handle the truth, take a hint from rulers of old: Go ask a fool. Even more revolutionary: be the fool for someone.

You can count on experts for conventional wisdom, buzzwords included. Backed with polls, charts, testimonials and bullet points. But rarely will an expert go out on a limb. She will not put her credibility on the line. (Her retweets might plunge.)

If you take her advice and fail, it must be your fault. How can the expert be wrong? She has her own domain name, for heaven’s sake.

A fool, now there’s a different animal. A fool has nothing to lose, because everyone already dismisses her as such. No one sidles up to a fool to network. No one aspires to become a fool. “What’s your major?” “Pro Fooling.”

A fool isn’t in it for the prestige. A fool doesn’t care if you subscribe to the A-List PowerFool group. No fool would bother starting one. Fools are loners; the known exception being partner fools in Elizabethan times named Lucretia the Tumbler and Jane the Fool. (We appreciate that Jane had a no-nonsense approach to branding.)

How does a fool come by her career? Some fools were “naturals” by way of slow-mo minds or deformities. Some fools were trained entertainers.

Consider the court jester. Her job description read, “Make a fool of yourself.” Being that already, I don’t suppose a fool ever suffered a crisis of inauthenticity on the job. Her purpose, ostensibly, was to distract from the dreary, especially on days when the castle was damp and the porridge tasted like slurry. But she was more than just the class clown, and she knew it.
"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be the fool." 
~William Shakespeare

As an equal-opportunity poker of fun, the fool could get away with risky behavior. Namely, magnifying faults in the mighty and collapsing puffed-up egos like failed soufflĂ©. She had the protection of the throne because only the fool could be trusted to tell the truth. It’s one of the ways fools added value to the court.