We all need a lit­tle fool­ish­ness in our lives

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Front Page - Padraig O’Mo­rain

Long is the jour­ney that is made in the com­pany of a fool, says one of the Bud­dhist books. It strikes me that a jour­ney in the com­pany of a wise man or wo­man could be even longer, or at least duller.

The psy­chol­o­gist Wil­liam Glasser once re­marked that peo­ple who al­ready know ev­ery­thing are not much fun. He saw fun and play as as­pects of learn­ing. Who needs fun if they know it all?

This may be some­thing to re­mem­ber as we en­ter the sea­son of, among other things, fool­ish­ness in which nor­mally quiet peo­ple wear­ing rein­deer pullovers stand in pubs drink­ing too much and bray­ing like lost don­keys.

While tempted to call them fools (the mild ver­sion) we might re­mem­ber that fool­ish­ness is not nec­es­sar­ily a state to be de­spised.

My favourite card in the Tarot pack is the one that de­picts the fool. It shows a young man head­ing off with his worldly goods, a small dog scam­per­ing be­side him. He looks full of con­fi­dence. He’s ready to con­quer the uni­verse.

A wise ob­server might tell him to slow down but if he slows down too much, he’ll get nowhere.

Suf­fer fools gladly

A fool­ish – be­cause it was based on a wrong as­sump­tion – de­ci­sion to pur­sue jour­nal­ism shaped my life so maybe that’s why I suf­fer fools gladly.

I wanted to be a jour­nal­ist be­cause we got the Evening Press in our house and I used to sit there in the farm kitchen read­ing Dubliner’s Diary. In it, writer Terry O’Sul­li­van did the round of so­cial events in the cap­i­tal.

I thought that be­ing a jour­nal­ist meant you could stroll into any event in the city, that you had a sort of open pass. In re­al­ity, the events Terry O’Sul­li­van wrote about were held for the sole pur­pose of hav­ing Terry O’Sul­li­van write about them, and what­ever the or­gan­is­ers were pro­mot­ing.

So I was fool­ish to choose my fu­ture di­rec­tion on the ba­sis of a mis­un­der­stand­ing which five min­utes’ re­flec­tion could have avoided.

When I be­gan to buy The Ir­ish Times out of my wages from the Dis­trict Ve­teri­nary Of­fice in Naas I made my­self look fool­ish also. For the most part, at the time, only man­agers, bankers and Protes­tants read The Ir­ish Times and I was none of those.

Still, I got in through the back door of The Ir­ish Times by the sort of cir­cuitous route the fool in the Tarot card might have taken.

You could prob­a­bly say the same about many peo­ple in the arts and in en­ter­tain­ment and about many en­trepreneurs – with­out at least a strong dash of fool­ish­ness they would have been afraid to make the move.

List of re­grets

That is all very well, but some­times the poor fool gets crushed. In­deed, in the Tarot card the fool is head­ing for the edge of a cliff. Will he go over it? Prob­a­bly. How far is the fall? We don’t know. But do we want the fool to turn back and spend the rest of his life on the farm won­der­ing what might have been?

All that said, if I was to write down a list of re­grets – not an ex­er­cise I would rec­om­mend to any­body, much less to my­self – one of them would be

Yes, I know I might have stepped over that cliff and taken a fall along the way but play­ing it safe doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily save you from a fall

that I haven’t been a fool more of­ten. I have man­aged to break out now and then but by and large I have “stayed be­tween the lines”, so to speak, as I learned to do at school.

Be­ing a fool more of­ten would have taken me to places and ex­pe­ri­ences that I can­not ac­tu­ally imag­ine. Yes, I know I might have stepped over that cliff and taken a fall along the way but play­ing it safe doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily save you from a fall.

So the next time I see some brightly jer­seyed chap mak­ing an id­iot of him­self in the pub at Christ­mas, I will re­mem­ber that he stands as a sym­bol of the his­toric fig­ure of the fool and should be re­spected, not de­spised.

Not that he’s go­ing to feel like much of a sym­bol when he looks in the mir­ror the next day.

Padraig O’Mo­rain is ac­cred­ited by the Ir­ish As­so­ci­a­tion for Coun­selling and Psy­chother­apy.

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