“I must learn to love the fool in me the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries”
Theodore Isaac Rubin
I've always seen it ironic (and fitting) that the first card in a Tarot deck is "The Fool." Tarot is like that. The cards sometimes speak with a wry smile, a raised eyebrow and rude humor. You have to be a bit (at least a bit) of a fool to even pick up a tarot deck, willing to take a chance on something unexplainable, mysterious, and challenging and something many others view as just a little crazy. I love the reactions I get from people when I tell them I am a tarot reader. "Oh?" they say, "Um...ah...that's interesting..." with an undisguised tone of incredulity as they shift uncomfortably in their seats. And because I am a fortune teller I can hear their thoughts. No, really I can, it's true, and they're saying, "She seemed intelligent and sane, now this?" The Fool seems neither intelligent nor sane. In most of the ancient, historical decks he is the village idiot, the wanderer, the beggar, the guy who invites ridicule and laughter. He's often the court jester, the political satirist who, while playing the fool, makes a fool of the ones in the seat of power. So...he's not so dumb, is he? He shuns convention and "normal" society, and serves as a mirror to our own predjudices and pride.
One of my favorite images of The Fool is from the Tarot of Durer. That's him up there on the left shooting the moon. He embodies the classic "Fuck you" attitude as well as the sly twinkle in his eye that betrays the secret that he's not as certifiably insane as you might think. His marotte (jester stick) signifies his occupation, though probably part time. The origin of the word "jester" seems to mostly coincide with the word for "actor," particularly comic actors in Rome. And therein lies the question: is he acting? Probably. Most jesters or fools were just folks down on their luck or who needed a steady source of income. They were often people born "vertically challenged" with dwarfism and whose parents would "beg him the fool." Gifted with a "childlike madness" those who might otherwise be destitute found a way to make a living by playing the fool, often making fools of those who laughed at his antics.
In tarot the Fool is unnumbered, zero, and he is just that random. Tarot was originally a bridge-like card game called "Tarocchi" and drawing or playing the Fool card meant the player was momentarily exempted from playing by the rules of the game. Perfect! For those of us hellions who have been railing at rules since birth, this is OUR card. The problem is, though, if you'll notice in the image above, our brave hero is precariously perched on the edge of a cliff and his own recklessness could be his own demise. Ah, such is the trouble with being a fool. Sometimes we're our own worst enemies. We tend to have a permanent imprint of our own hands on our foreheads from the many times we've smacked it in that "What the hell was I thinking?" post-falling on our faces moments.
Still, it's the reckless freedom of the fool that I love, despite his lack of forethought. Most people are afraid of being "played the fool" and I am no exception. I pride myself in my ability to assess people's character and I am not easily duped. Except sometimes. And when I fall, I fall hard. Still, the times when I have risked my pride have been the times when I have felt most fully alive. I wouldn't trade my fool's journeys for all the promises of safe passage in the world.