Playing the Fool

At a glance, a zero is an empty circle of no value, a phantom number. The zero's origins, it is believed, lie in ancient Arabia. Rows of pebbles were placed in sand as a means of measuring and quantifying. The pebbles left a circular indentation when removed; thus, the vacant number was born. What they did not know was that the source of an epiphany could be found in the void.

The archetype of the Fool is that essence of zero. It is the unspoken truth in the indentation, hidden under satire, self-deprecation, and irony. The "hidden" wisdom of the Fool, like its eponymous twins in a deck of cards, is often discarded, set aside because the player's focus remains seated in the ego, driven toward winning the game. The archetype of the Fool is often overlooked as just a void, barely making a dent in the sand of our consciousness. We never think the lessons of the Fool are for us.

An undeveloped Fool is a misguided danger, one undeserving of compassion because he fuels the ego like a blazing wildfire. He is analogous to the animal-skinned dwarf snapping the jawbone mockingly at the mighty Samson's ankles in the book of Judges. He goads him in his chained, weakened state to feed his own ego. That is, until Samson calls upon God for mercy and justice. Literally and symbolically, Samson seizes the very mouthpiece of blind ignorance and destroys all of this captors, breaking free from ego-bound consciousness.  The Fool's mouthpiece has its moment of reckoning, used against itself. 

The archetype of the Fool makes for rich fodder in unexpected places; we cannot lose our capacity for confronting him. Reflecting on the Fool can help develop our consciousness and awaken awareness within. We can be both Br'er Rabbit and Br'er Fox, beguiling and then beguiled. Maybe instead we are delusional and overly optimistic, no longer seeing the world as it properly is, yet finding magic in what we imagine it to be; we are Cervantes' Don Quixote or Ignatius Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunces. Maybe we become aware of the driving depths of sorrow and isolation and the very brokenness of man like the sobbing, street-winding Pagliacci.

Like the zero, the lessons of the Fool can be undervalued, their cards set aside from the rest of the deck. But in Central Europe, there are card games where the highest trump one can play is 22 (a power master number and mirror-reflection) They are represented by the oft-discarded Fool cards. The lesson is clear: the Fool can help us rise above the delusions if we don't brush off his lessons, and can bring forth clarity by serving as the metaphorical trump to the ego.

The Fool enlightened often serves as an antagonist to a man's mask, his egoistic veil of maya. He brings humility, sometimes casting a light on the true humor or sorrow of a thing by those same methods. There is a reason why fools always sat in a place of trust alongside the king. They espoused wisdom and gentle counsel, not by direct call-outs but by guidance toward what can only be recognized within. The wise king internalizes and heeds the Fool's subtle sting like an antidote. The ego-bound King fails to get the point, projecting outwardly that the Fool's wiseguy rhetoric belongs to the King's subject and is no more than chatter.

The Fool often represents a choice to be made. Will you choose token amusements or greater awakening? Which king of consciousness will you become? Will you play the 22 trump in your hand, or fill it with stolen pebbles and ignore the hollow circles in the sand?

If you liked this article, why not check out: "The Calling of the Vine" and "Living Spectre: An American Horror Story"

For a full list of Ali's work, go here.

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