Look in a dictionary and you’ll find the word fool defined in a few different ways. But the most common definitions are these:
A person who acts unwisely or imprudently; a silly person
A person lacking in judgment
Ignoring the court jester type of fool I’d say that’s how most of us would define the word.
Definitions are all well and good but they’re not all easy to apply.
How do we recognise a fool? How do we identify foolishness?
Who gets to decide?
How are they qualified to know?
It’s not a crime to be foolish. You don’t get taken to court. There is no bewigged old codger to bang a gavel and send you to jail.
There is a jury though.
They’re self-appointed and always on your case. They’re quick to pass judgment.
The selection process for this jury is poor. Anyone can join.
Our family, our peers, our friends, complete strangers. The more the merrier.
We live in a judgemental society.
The collective 'we' get to decide when someone is/has been/is going to be foolish. They get to decide who’s labelled a fool.
If we’re honest with ourselves we make those judgements too.
Should you be found guilty of foolishness there’s a range of punishments awaiting.
People will laugh. You’ll be ridiculed, sniggered at.
You’ll lose respect, you’ll be banished.
We’re taught this early on.
“Don’t be a fool”. “Don’t be silly”. “Be sensible” “Don’t risk it”.
Society wants us to conform, to fit in, to comply.
It needs us to play by the rules it sets.
It knows that we have a fear of appearing foolish.
It knows that’ll keep us in line.
So most of us spend our lives trying to avoid anything that might lead to that happening.
We don’t want to be laughed at.
But there’s a problem.
Foolishness is subjective.
Where's the line between wise and unwise? Prudent and imprudent? Silly and sensible, Good judgement and bad?
It's a line drawn in water. Impossible to map and constantly changing.
There are some boundaries of course. If you step out into the road without looking or jump into a fast flowing river when you can’t swim. That’s not foolish, that’s reckless. There’s a big difference.
Doing reckless things can endanger your life and is likely to impact on others in a bad way.
I don’t recommend reckless.
But there’s a danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. You can be foolish without being reckless.
I do recommend being foolish.
I’m a serial offender when it comes to foolishness.
I run a website called Foolish Spirit.
My Twitter handle is @FoolishNeil
I published a book called 'A Foolish Voyage'
I'm writing another called 'A Foolish Odyssey'
More importantly, I've done a lot in my life that many would call foolish. I continue to do such things.
I do them because my foolish choices have turned out to be the best choices I’ve made.
For me doing foolish things has become essential, an elixir of life. If I stop I'll die. I don’t care what the jury thinks.
So how do you know if what you’re considering is foolish?
Do you have to be foolish once or multiple times?
How do you become a fool? Maybe you just have to rush into something.
How do you know when you've strayed into fooldom?
It's not easy to know.
The only clue comes from others and how they react to your actions.
When those around you shake their heads. When they ask if you’re crazy. When they do all they can to discourage you.
Because that’s your green light. That’s when you need to take the plunge and go start whatever it is you're dreaming of.
Here’s an alt-definition of foolishness
Knowingly not knowing what you are doing and deciding to do it anyway
Let others be your guide. But remember this.
Not a single one of them has any right to judge you.
They’re uniquely unqualified to decide what foolishness is.
They have no idea that making a foolish decision might just be the best decision you can make.
Feel sorry for them.
The poor fools.
Oh, and one last thing.
Next time you find yourself thinking someone foolish. Do yourself a favour and stop.
That’s all. Just stop.
I stole that alt-definition from a lady by the name of Mo Heim.
I highly recommend watching her 10 minute TED talk ‘Fishing cats & the foolish girl's guide to success’
Here’s the LINK
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