"WHERE IS THE WISE ONE? WHERE IS THE SCRIBE? WHERE IS THE DEBATER OF THIS AGE? HAS NOT GOD MADE THE WISDOM OF THE WORLD FOOLISH? … FOR THE FOOLISHNESS OF GOD IS WISER THAN HUMAN WISDOM."
The Bible has gone to great lengths to show that all of mankind, I say again, all of mankind, are deluded. Solomon has said conclusively, “Vanity of vanity, all is vanity,” and also that “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child.” Men upon the face of the earth are all men chasing shadows, all the days of their lives, and men, at the very height of their glory, are all mad. The domicile of delirium, i.e. worldly happiness, is the home of Folly, and is better known as common “foolishness,” and we could say stupidity, silliness, asininity, absurdity, imbecility, or mild mannered craziness, but let’s not get particular. This Folly, who loosely closes her fist and allows her many jewels to be heisted, with only a pretense of resistance; and sheepishly hides her face from our insanity, while attaining a howling good time, is the same goddess of this world who freely dispenses those things which, we suppose, make us happy. In our madness the pretense becomes the reality, and to unveil the charade is to spoil the whole production. To remove the actor’s make-up is to ruin the play; and to expose the play as a travesty, could well earn you a lashing, if not literal at least of the tongue. This foolishness is what those of the world call logic, wisdom, and intelligence, and that is the great delusion of mankind, and the great entertainment of Folly.
This idea of exposing the folly shut up in the bodies of men is not new with me, so I’ll take a minute to give some credit where credit is due, to Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, who wrote the renowned work, The Praise of Folly, in the year 1511. I have loosely followed his lead without quoting him directly, while trying to retain his method of delivering a needed message through irony.
It seems that Erasmus was on his way back from Italy to England where he was visiting Vanity Fair, i.e. the Italian Renaissance (def., re-birth) himself being a Dutch Renaissance humanist Catholic Priest, having seen firsthand the bud of humanism opened in full bloom, the fruit of which are the likes of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, along with grand new ideas of literature, science, art, religion, and politics. Simultaneously with the Renaissance there was occurring the Reformation. Erasmus lived during the Reformation period, but while he was very critical of the Catholic Church, as is evidenced in The Praise of Folly, he could not bring himself to join the cause of the Reformers. In relation to clerical abuses in the Catholic Church, Erasmus remained committed to reforming the Church from within; bad idea, which has never worked.
The Reformation, now having seen five hundred years of progress, has fallen into a similar situation as the Catholic Church, a severe degradation of both the clergy and the laity. Here again, trying to reform from within is probably not going to work, but only a strict obedience to Scripture to, “Come out from amongst them and be ye separate,” will work. As in the Catholic Church most will remain within, because that is the easiest path. And also, as during the Reformation, there is a heavy cost of swimming against the tide of the prevailing religious sentiments.
During Erasmus’ prolonged trip of about two months, and incited by his disgust of both secular and ecclesiastical corruption, he allowed himself a little levity and penned his famous book The Praise of Folly, Morias Enkomion (Μωρίας Εγκώμιον). Sometimes the book is called “In Praise of More,” since the book was dedicated to Sir Thomas More, whose title is a play on the name of More, Morias meaning folly.
Folly praises self-deception and madness and moves to a satirical examination of pious but superstitious abuses of Catholic doctrine and corrupt practices in parts of the Roman Catholic Church—to which Erasmus was ever faithful—and the folly of pedants (including Erasmus himself). Erasmus had recently returned disappointed from Rome, where he had turned down offers of advancement in the curia, and Folly increasingly takes on Erasmus' own chastising voice. The essay ends with a straightforward statement of Christian ideals. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
More, who consequently, is recognized by the Catholic Church as an English Saint and martyr was beheaded by Henry the VIII for his part in opposing the Reformation and Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon.
One last note of consequence is the fact that Erasmus fully expected to be attacked for his satirical uncovering of the foolishness within the Catholic Church, and mankind in general. It has always been the gift of the Court Jester to present truth immersed in the roar of laughter. A character trait of the true worldling is the ability to laugh at himself while not allowing any of the reality of truth to impinge upon his understanding or bring light into his darkness. When truth registers with an individual it inevitably brings a change of life, or it can bring an uproar and condemnation.
I’m not here to make anyone angry, but to exhibit some of the things which we wise and intelligent humans mistake for genuine wisdom, and pride ourselves in accomplishing. So, grab a cup of coffee and let’s take a look at a few of the jewels that Folly toys herself with.
Folly is not partial, because every flesh covered human is her offspring, and all of humankind has inherited, and is afflicted with, her madness. For men to try and define her foolishness, in all of its complexity, is like a fish trying to comprehend wetness; it can be done, but Folly’s way is to just simply abandon yourself and enjoy it, and to see it in it ridiculous outfit knowing that we all walk around in our own custom tailored clown suits.
A Note From Folly
You may ask, “Is there a value in foolishness?” Of course there is value! Isn’t it your laughable illusions that enable you to live a happy life? Even your own marketers know that if you perceive something as valuable, then who is to say it isn’t? and everyone values a good time. It is only those intellectual types and Puritans who would destroy the illusion, and bring discontentment, with a display of matters-of-fact; it is the wise man that disturbs the peace; but the wise man in doing so becomes a wise fool. The wise man, Solomon, warns us not to “…answer a fool according to his folly, or we will be like him.” A modern translation might say, “Don’t argue with a fool; those who pass by can’t tell the difference.” He who is madder laughs at him who is less; the wise man is only a well-to-do beggar, or an ingenious jughead; and the best you can hope for is borderline sanity. Ignorance is bliss.
The Jewel Pouch
With that introduction let’s go swimming in the lake of madness. Let it be known that we are not talking about truth, I mean true truth; but rather the truth inherent in madness, the truth of this world, the truth of apparent reality. We will not separate the madness of religion from all the other forms of madness, because in the final analysis they are all the same, but we will distinguish between two variants of madness, as expounded by Plato, one being evil, and the other being divine or good. Plato, not knowing anything divine except the plethora of divinity ignorantly worshiped by the masses, speaks of this good type of madness as from these gods; but it is Folly’s madness none the less, and not really divine, but merely a matter of degree, and exhibited in a more peaceful manner. So, what we really have is evil madness and good madness, both of which show up in religion and the world. Our goal is primarily to expose the madness or foolishness that we call happiness; the other madness, of mayhem and murder, should be apparent without comment.
Our dear Stultitia will:
- Endeavor to show, and provide, the necessary illusions to render life in this world tolerable and pleasant.
- Show how she makes the professional churchmen and statesmen blind enough to be happy while conducting their various irresponsibilities.
- Enable the Christian fool to see how incompatible the happiness of this world is with Christian joy; and to inadvertently provide a way of escape.
Irony of Irony; A Fools Life is the Best Life, and You Can Have “Your Best Life Now”
Stultitia, also known as Folly, has a very bad reputation, even amongst them who should know better, her loftiest students, the wise. They would even call her stupid, but not to her face. When she walks into a room everyone, including the snobs, become perky and giddy, because it is she who pours into the hearts of men the delight they crave. It is Folly that transforms them when they come forth out of their winters of melancholy boredom into the spring time of ecstatic ignorant elation. What their stuffy preachers couldn’t achieve in two hours of chatter, Folly accomplishes by just entering the room.
There is a reason that she wears the cap and bells of the certified fool. Take a moment and listen carefully, but not like you listen at Church, half asleep, but the way you listen to the saleslady or man who’s wrapping you around their little finger, or the low brow comedian telling off color jokes. What you will hear from her, is not nonsense, but a rational argument exhibiting untold treasures. She’s not at all ashamed of self-love either, or to pat herself on the back, after all, who knows her better than herself.
Folly keeps the best of company. Who is the company that Folly keeps? Isn’t it obvious? It is those who feed on flattery and all who practice the fine art of self-love. We may think it a shame for others to praise one self, and the wise men teach it also, but tell one of them they’re mistaken on some issue and see how quick they come to their own defense. Folly’s self-praise is considerably less offensive and more modest than the run-of-the-mill human author or speaker who pays good money to have someone else endorse him or sing his praises, or speak sheer lies, and elevate him to Heaven itself, and set him as the model of all virtue. Do you see how very modest Folly is compared to these guys; she would never make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. She is very open and honest about it all!
But, there is that other company too, the common man. He will go to any length to hear his name mentioned in some praise worthy way, whether on the dock, or in the office, from the pulpit, or in the newspaper. He will spend countless hours pouring over some thing: an article, a canvas, an idea, some grueling work, and swear he knocked it out in an hour, or had his company’s best interest in mind, just to earn a little applause. Yes, she keeps company with common folk, and they give her the greatest honor, and eagerly identify with her through their speech, which is, “that truest mirror of the mind,” never mind that they are not outwardly adorned with cap and bells, they foolishly lie, saying one thing and thinking another, something Folly would never do. She cannot be hidden even by those who think themselves wise, strutting around like geniuses, movie stars, or millionaires. The raw fact is they are some of her most ardent followers, even when they are throwing her name around at others as a mark of disgrace and something to be avoided.
Stultitia is fond of imitation; after all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,
as every fool knows, I mean, as we all know. A whole day can be consumed and privileges gained in this pastime. Call it schmoozing or sucking-up if you like, but how wonderful the perks when a compliment is rightly used in a conversation or golf game, geared to open a door or two. How delightful to win at this game of flattery and imitation. Volumes have been written on how to do or say just the right thing to bring down a kingdom or pick up a girl. From top to bottom it is foolishness, and Folly is the mother of all these blessed children.
And, speaking of children, let’s speak first of marriage and its encumbrances. Would any man in his right mind ever submit to it even once, not to mention two, three, four times, (as they do these days) if he ever listened to all the wiseacres forbidding this unthinkable thing with all of its drawbacks? What woman would ever yield to the advances of any man if she stopped to consider the perils of childbirth, and the labors and trials of raising children? This game, as ridiculous as it is, is the fountain of so many disdainful philosophers and schoolmen, and pious priest, and pope-holy pontiffs, that the continent of Europe can scarcely contain them. It would be such a little thing for Folly to assert her role in the very production of this fortune, but she would rather commend her handmaids Anoia (lack of understanding) and Lethe (forgetfulness) for their small part and service. In any case, how can you characterize this life as sane; can you even call it a life, without this associated pleasure? On the contrary, is there any part of life that is not pure misery if not seasoned with the delight of foolishness?
Call me a liar if you want, but isn’t it true that it is the foolishness of youth that makes it so attractive. Aren’t the goo goo’ing and the cuddliness of babies the things that make these little simpletons so alluring, and we encourage silliness as a way to lighten our own burden? Then there is adolescence, those teenagers; full of grace and energy, and appetite. They crave all-things and are ignorant of nothing and everything, all at the same time; one minute playing the fool, and the next, acting as if they’re Einstein. Where does this youthful charm come from but Folly’s handbag? Then there comes the wilting of the flower, our days passing by like falling stars when true happiness is found in a simple place to rest. Youth gives way to seriousness, and the farther they get from foolishness the less they are alive. Stultitia has some precious stones for these primetime grownups also. Like an Indian summer a second childhood recharges those nearly dead batteries, and brings the want of youthfulness. Red sports cars, hair plugs, and tummy tucks are prized commodities of the upperclassmen; if they could only remember where they put the car keys; and wasn’t loud music really made for the old deaf fools. Now, when we consider this advanced period of ripening, wouldn’t you agree that Folly has been most wise, in causing these overgrown nippers to revert to a kind of prepuberty, which is itself identified with a feeble grasp of reality and a meandering mind? Isn’t the primary charm of childhood capsulated in this fact, that it knows nothing? Let a child be a child; a child prodigy is only admired in the company of its parents, never actually; he’s just too smart for his own britches. But, old men and women are loved for their jolliness and feebleness, and not filled with too much wisdom, judgment and advice; but through foolishness, they are made happy. And even so, this phase, toward the end is even better than childhood. Those babes are sweet indeed but they lack the ability to talk, and in that they lack a most enjoyable pastime, gossip, and how that makes life delicious. Old people and infants are so much alike: the wrinkles, gums, whitish hair, a liking of milk, a small bodily frame, forgetful, thoughtless, toothless, loving jokes and tomfoolery; they’re a perfect match.
Now you can understand how those old wise snobs, the scholars, bankers, business owners, and all the wannabes, dry up before their time; devoted to seriousness? They forever worry and beat their brains out trying to untie the Gordian knot, when Alexander’s sword did the trick right nice. As the old saying goes, “A stupid head grows neither gray nor bald.” In this world foolishness is the only way of preserving youth; why else did the Greeks and the Romans have so many gods of pleasure. It is Folly who makes everybody laugh by getting a fool to sing some karaoke, or recite a poem, which the audience would rather hear than a performance at the concert hall, especially when soused on the secretions of madness. We will not mention the foolish things that follow such a feast, when madness has reached its peak; I can hardly keep from laughing. But, I suppose I should put my finger on my lips, lest some tender one be eavesdropping and repeat such things that can’t be spoken-out with impunity, so let’s move on with these two short questions. In this situation, what is there that a man would not give to a woman? And, what compensation would he await in return but, foolishness?
What peace and tranquility comes with perfected folly, and what a treat awaits them at the end of a grueling day, having successfully warded off the assaults of those more foolish than themselves and anyone claiming to know the “truth;” the intolerance of such a thing is repulsive. These intolerant truth fanatics are the arch enemies of Stultitia, and her many defenders deserve to be rewarded with exceptional offerings of madness, and what can this grace be but to drink beer and wine and eat food, and sit stupefied for hours watching television. What better way to end a day in the jungle than to just “tune out” reality, and spend quality time with family. The preciousness of this craziness is testified to by the fact that virtually everyone, 97.5%, partake of this blessing daily, for hours and hours, and most own more than one T.V., and many leave them on all day long. What in the world can excel this madness; a massive troop of fools enlisted for no other reason than to praise Folly, by living out a life of fantastic happiness, laughing or crying on cue. The cheap thrills we receive erratically throughout the day cannot be compared to this programed stupidity, on purpose no less; and even this is not to be compared to the banquet of fools served up for our enjoyment by Hollywood in all of its varied formats; good Lord!, this colossal ignorance takes my breath away. We haven’t even gotten to the fanatical worship of the sports channel, or the religious piracy of TBN; these are a couple of Folly’s favorites, but not to be out done by those wonderful soaps in their dishonest depiction of the life we would love to lead.
Well, my beloved friends I have taken much, too much, of your precious time in silliness and foolish talk, and I have to stop for a while. I know I promised to venture into other realms, like putting my finger on those stick-in-the-mud professional churchmen and statesmen; and to show you a blissful alternative and escape hatch, but I have to stop and get my breath; but stay tuned, the end of the thing is near, I promise.
Delusions of Grandeur, the Breakfast of Champions
Stultitia is often found in the pulpit imitating the “divines” who are confident that they have risen to Lordship, Father-hood, Reverendship, or Most Reverendship, or some other self-ingratiating title.
The Christian Fools Paradox; Black Is Black? and White Is Actually White?
An offering of bliss, or an intolerant assault on insanity?