I knew that it would happen. Even though there are only 22 cards in the major arcana, there are some I know really well and some I like a lot. Death and The Devil are two I feel strong positive vibes for, for instance. There are some I don’t know so well, like The Empress and The Star. Others, I know about and just don’t like.
I just prejudicially look down on certain cards.
Can’t help it.
And this week’s card is one of them.
What a toolbag.
I mean, it’s not his fault. He’s the hero of the deck. He’s the person being read.
The Fool is all of us.
And I don’t hate him because he’s a fool. I’m actually a big fan of fools. I even wrote a set of columns on foolishness last year.
But ugh. He just tires me out. Like when my kids wake me up by breathing in my face at 5 a.m. on a Saturday. Like, no. Just no, you guys. He’s so high energy and just blarg. So much yellow. Yellow, the color of intellectual endeavors, usually gets me all jacked up but this guy isn’t chill about it. At all. He just…
Like, if my attentional defecit issue could go unmedicated and take a physical form, it would be this dude. And that’s precisely what my attentional deficit did for way too many damn years, and I can’t. I’m just exhausted remembering it, and so looking at this guy just makes me want six cups of coffee and two Vyvanse to calm down.
I tend to like to be as dormant as possible. Like, if I can just stay home and not have to do anything, that’s what I want to do. But, if I must be on the move, I’m the type of person who likes to be on the road, but who doesn’t enjoy packing. I’m the type of person who goes to work two hours before I have to be there because I can’t stand sitting around waiting for “time to go.”
This guy is just balls to the wall all the time and he wears me out just looking at him.
But I can’t be prejudicial. Every card has something worthwhile to offer.
Blah blah blah.
Okay. Let’s take a closer look. I’m going to process this guy into daguerreotype, though, so I can just be less overstimulated by his energetic ass.
Look, even Edgar is like, “ugh. This toolbag.” See how he’s rolling his eyes? Poe knows, man. Poe gets my feels.
Okay. So what we have here is a young fella getting set to walk right the hell off the edge of a damn cliff.
Because he’s a toolbag.
He’s looking up in the air instead of out in front of him, so his stupid little ankle biting yappity mutt is trying to warn him that he’s about to walk the hell off the edge of a damn cliff. But something about this whole tragic scene seems to imply that it ain’t workin’, homie.
Okay. I need to be nice.
Let’s see…cool shit about The Fool…
I mean, them leggings is tight. He clearly rockin’ the LuLaRoe. So. That’s something.
Hmm… what else? If we’re talking court jester fools, they actually are pretty badass. Just as the king was the divine ruler of the land, the fool was his mirror image – immune to the social construct, able to infiltrate and walk amongst any group. By appearing foolish – simple – people felt they could speak, and be, plainly in his presence. Appearing foolish let those around him underestimate him, and he was able to get to know them all, and then reflect their own folly (including that of the king) back upon them. The Fool in tarot works basically the same way.
In the tarot, the fool is the perfect representation of Jung’s trickster archetype.
And this is why I have to like him, even if his Rider-Waite representation of him makes me hate him.
And let’s just be clear: I only hate that version of The Fool because he reminds me of myself even six or seven years ago.
Anyhow, tricksters. Now, I do love me a trickster. Fox and Crow are both well-regarded as tricksters in nature, and they are both animals I’ve long felt a strong affection for. I love jokers, comedians, satirists, and other forms of clownery.
Old wisdom states that the jester at court is to bad juju what an apple a day is to the doctor. In other words, keeping such a wise and keen observer of humanity’s filth close at hand is safer than having him entirely autonomous, on the outskirts, and without an audience. The trickster, too, is best befriended. Such a powerful entity has the potential to derail entire lives if made an enemy of.
Culturally, we tend to give the fool – the trickster – his due by way of celebrations such as carnivals, Mardi Gras, Halloween, and April Fool’s day. We give him time throughout the year to run amok, to be celebrated rather than reviled, in hopes that it will appease him to keep his chaos at a respectful distance the rest of the time.
Because it truly is better the devil you know, after all.
Just as we all have a personal filth river running through us that we must consciously sublimate into acceptable pursuits, we all have a foolish streak, and we would do well to be open and honest, and to trot him out ahead of us. If we make fun of ourselves first, or allow others to openly give us comic feedback on ourselves, then we remove the sting of the experience. That’s one reason. But also, it’s important to remember that the fool’s entirely capricious approach to life necessarily frees him from the encumberance of logic. The fool is a reminder that we need to just say “fuck it” every now and again, let go of the constraints of “courtly” behavior, and allow free reign to the raw creativity that unleashes itself in the Fool’s presence.
Which is kind of the entire point of this whole tarot endeavor for me.
Originally, this entire feature was devised as a way to distract myself from trying to do what I’ve been trained to do and write about my marriage, in the hopes that it would free my mind to more naturally, organically, write about my marriage.
As an allegory to writing, the Fool represents the ability to walk between the personal and the universal. Which is the point of writing narrative nonfiction in the first place. Transformation of personal experience to universal insight is the end game in memoir and personal essay – at least, in those done well and properly – 100 percent of the time. We who write in this genre do need to be as sure-footed as the Fool, able to switch between those two worlds with the ease and dexterity – and perhaps even more importantly, with the fearlesness – with which he travels his anti-path.
As narrative nonfiction writers, one of the swiftest paths to helping a reader identify with us as narrators (and thereby to getting our thesis to catch) is to lead with our own foolishness. No one can empathize with a know-it-all or a blowhard. Our ability to be opinionated and strong-willed in commentary, however, is directly and strongly positively correlated with our wilingness to be self-deprecating. Not only does a willingness to speak candidly about our own flaws give us the upper hand when it comes to reader empathy, but it does so by indicating wisdom, insight, and honesty. We can trust a person who’s willing to show us her less flattering aspects.
Transparency is magic.
The dog, I think, is representative of the writer’s intuition. Although we’re not always quite paying enough attention to heed the little bastard’s warning, he knows when we’re off track, and tries his best to warn us.
I think I hate the Fool so damn much because, for so long, I dug my own grave time after time by going full Fool but not listening for the yipping of the dog beside me. Substances, bad relationships, and bad choices all are a part of my life’s legacy because for a long, long time I embraced the capriciousness of the Fool without gaining any wisdom from the experiences it brought me.
And, unfortunately, one of the biggest examples is my capricous denial, from in the thick of it, that my marriage was anything more than typically troublesome. Or troubled.
I have shied so far away from the pure intuition represented by the tarot’s Fool that I fear I may have overcorrected to the opposite extreme, which is what prevents me now from being able to write anything of any value about the experience itself.
I’m working on it. And, for this week, the Fool will be staring me down from beneath my monitor, confronting me with both my dislike and my need for this rat bastard of a toolbag, whom I need to learn to love at least a little again. Because shutting him out certainly isn’t working.