The ship of fools, depicted in a 1549 German woodcut

The ship of fools, depicted in a 1549 German woodcut

The Fool’s Journey

In the Middle Ages, villagers called the local idiot, “a fool of God;”  they thought that the one who “knew” less must be “connected” more. An artist’s journey is to know less and less, while the artist’s mission is to experience more and more.

Only by knowing nothing of “what is” can you ever get to the place where you can receive inspiration for something new. This is what is called “beginner’s mind” and it is the secret of all creative people. They start with no preconceptions, judgments, or negative thoughts. And in truth, nothing bad can happen when you sustain this mood, because it is the mood itself that makes your reality and your future.

A fool begins his journey innocent of the potential problems that he may encounter. You may say that this is the particular wisdom of the fool. The fool starts out in sunshine and hope filled with the vision of the flowering of his inspiration. He has few belongings (knowledge) in his pack, and his face is turned towards the Sun.

Everyone else sees the cliff ahead, but the Fool walks blithely on.

A creative person allows a space inside themselves for the nurturing of an inspiration. This space is an incubation box of sorts. Outside the box, the inspiration and the person holding it might be viewed as crazy, but inside the box it is an oasis of inner sanity, the ultimate sanity of clear, unobstructed vision, unfettered by limitation or fear.

A child who says that they are going to be a movie star or the President of the United States will often be ridiculed by their peers. The outside pressure doesn’t change when we grow up. An adult with a vision of a new something, whether a new business, and new relationship, or new life, is often considered a foolish, impractical dreamer by his peers.

When your vision for a new future begins it is a tiny seed. You must protect it and let it grow. That means that while your seed is just an idea, you cannot expose it to negativity, any more than you would expose a newborn child to the elements or expose a seed on a rock to the desert sun. Other people’s opinions and negativity will only serve to make it whither and die. You must grow the seed of your vision with a good fertile soil of hope, the water of expectation and the sunshine of love.

People who live inside cages of judgment and fear can only see limitations and failure. No matter how much they love you, they cannot see more for you than they can see for themselves. They have not been gifted with your particular vision. So, if you tell them your idea too soon, they can only warn you of their own limitations, and infect you with their projections of fear and failure.

However, when you allow your vision to grow until it is a strong sapling or even a tree, it can weather the naysayers easier because you have proof of the strength and viability of your vision. After all, “it is already here,” you can point out as you look at your idea.

From the standpoint of normal society, any really new idea is insane. Bob Broska says that “insane” really means “sane inside.” His creative definition allows us to see something that has become common language from a new perspective.

A shaman in a tribal culture was revered for his ability to have a vision, and was expected to see ahead, and see through. But mostly what he was doing was to see inside himself, make a home for the birth of a vision. He allowed it to speak to him, and through him the vision provided guidance to the tribe.

The movie, “Being There,” by Jerzy Kosiński was a modern version of the Fool’s journey. Peter Sellers starred as the simple-minded Fool who wanders through life with the ultimate “beginner’s mind.” When the movie begins, he is leading a sheltered life as Chance the gardener in an old man’s house. All he knows is the house, TV, and gardening.

The old man dies and Chance is forced to wander the world penniless. Outside there are all types of menacing things, things that would make most of us fear for our lives, but the Fool innocently wanders on.

Because he has no idea of limitations, everything that happens to him is an opportunity. He ends up as adviser to the United States President, and is featured on TV. He only speaks of gardening, but others interpret his words as a broad, hopeful vision for the future.

At the end of the movie, he has become one of the most trusted advisers for Rand, the “King Maker.” He is surrounded by nefarious types who want to know his secrets and offer him wealth and power. But Chauncey is incorruptible; he is still a simple gardener without the burden of a mind full of preconceptions and fears.

He wanders through Rand’s estate, and finally starts walking on the surface of the estate’s lake. He is physically walking on water, but this fool has no idea that this is unusual at all. He is blissfully unaware that he is doing something that we all know is impossible. He pauses, dips his umbrella into the water as if testing its depth, then turns, and walks blithely on his journey.

May we all enjoy such Foolishness on occasion.

Copyright 2009 Aliyah Marr

All rights reserved.