Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Playing the Fool

Giddy the Fool - My ScavenJester self

Lately, I’ve been playing the fool.  No, for real.  Quite literally, I’ve been playing the fool.  My friend Roger Fojas has introduced me to the art of clowning and has invited me to participate in his ongoing series of “ScavenJester” videos. Through these videos he has an aesthetic vision of unlocking one’s inner child. Indeed, the playful mischief involved in making these films is contagious. But I also find another resonance, one that appeals to me as a hedonist.

So what really is a fool, or, what kind of fool am I? You can see the fool as a jester, someone telling jokes – but also one who has mastered hiding truths in jokes. In medieval tradition it was often the fool who provided the most honest counsel to the king, for he alone could criticize the king through jest. 

The Fool in the Tarot deck is one who is laughed at and ridiculed, often for failing to see the consequences of his actions. He is often depicted as obliviously stepping off of a cliff. But in the Tarot, this step also represents a leap of faith. This gives the card a subtext of spiritual enlightenment, breaking with conventional wisdom to again reveal deeper truths. In other traditions the fool is related to Loki, the Norse God of mischief and chaos - and I confess I like this one as an upsetter of the status quo.

The Fool from the Rider-Waite Deck

So this weekend, dressed as a fool, I had fun making another ScavenJester video. Honestly though I probably had even more fun interacting with the people who came across us. The experience was quite liberating.  As we got dressed on a trail, we amused and delighted a number of fellow hikers, some stopped to take their pictures with us, others stopped and then backtracked waiting for friends or family to catch up so as to not encounter us alone. But hikers have code of exchanging friendly hellos to those they meet on the trails.

Back in town walking into the market, a man at the counter exclaimed, “I want to go to the party you guys are going to.” Meanwhile the clerk took a long look at us and asked, “What are you guys up to?” an awkward moment of silence followed until I spread out my arms displaying my full costume and announced matter-of-factly, “hiking.”  Laughter turned to smiles and we were soon on our way, stopping traffic and attracting waves.

It’s probably no coincidence that in this last week, some of my college photos once again emerged and started making the rounds as a motivational meme. I joke that this is my legacy, but in reality it may well be. I shall be remembered forever as the fool in gold pants.  A friend asked me if I was bothered by the comments, since plenty of them are full of mean spiritedness or cruelty, and honestly, it does not. They really don’t know me, and I’m challenging their norms.

My Legacy & Meme - My Foolish Destiny

Here is a major dilemma for a hedonist, especially when one’s desires run contrary to the norms of the community. In this situation the hedonist risks playing the fool and becoming a target of ridicule (or worse). It may well be that one chooses to keep quiet, keeping one's desires secret, or disclosed only to a small very select community of like-minded crypto hedonists. While I was fine wandering the streets and trails of artsy Idyllwilde, I chose to stay out of the Roadhouse in Hemet.

Perhaps that was a mistake. In order for our communities to evolve from ones based on survival, to those enabling enlightenment, one must be willing to play the fool and challenge those norms. But one takes a risk in doing so, particularly those who go first. Some people have much invested in maintaining those norms. Furthermore, there can be great resentment for the hedonist who openly takes their pleasures, particularly when the community at large has denied themselves those same desired pleasures for so long.

As a ScavenJester I play a fool, but perhaps I enjoy it as much as I do because it’s also a metaphor for my hedonism - tossing bits of chaos and subverting expectations with a laugh, with a smile, concealing bitter truths and maybe, just maybe bringing change and acceptance of the unique desires we all wish fulfilled.

Roadside Assistance 

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