Holy Fools

Things to Do on an Elevator

*Crack open your briefcase or purse, and while peering inside, ask, “Got enough air in there?”

  • Meow occasionally.
  • Wear a puppet on one of your hands and use it to talk to the other passengers.
  • Listen to the elevator walls with a stethoscope.
  • Say “ding” at each floor.
  • Make noises like an explosion every time someone presses a button.
  • Stare, grinning at a friendly passenger, and then announce, “I have on new socks.”
  • Greet everyone getting on the elevator with a warm handshake and ask each of them to call you “Admiral.”

     My guess is that if you were on an elevator with someone who said or did any of the above, the first thing you would do when you “escaped” would be to alert security! On the other hand, you might find it funny and refreshing to experience a little levity, some lightness in the midst of what is our too often busy and humorless lives.

     There is precedent for people who are free-spirited enough to speak and act in a humorous and unconventional manner; they are the archetypical “court jester,” the “clown,” the “holy fool.” It is the purpose of such a one to not merely make others laugh, but to cause them to realize that they may be taking themselves, and their life too seriously. The jester’s message to the king (anyone in a position of authority/power) is that there is a Higher Power they must serve, and to which they must answer. The clown demonstrates that life is circus-like, and that we need to laugh at our stumbling ways. The holy fool is one whose sometimes heretical words and outrageous actions are a warning that clinging too rigidly to religious beliefs and practices may cause us to become self-righteous and judgmental; humility, not piety, is the sign of true holiness.

      Those whose behavior challenges us to look closely at the way we live are iconoclasts; from the Greek eikon and klastes, the word means image breaker. When we buy into conventional images of success/acceptability personally, professionally, or religiously, we may need fools to free us from the limiting captivity of convention, and to free us for a larger and more fulfilling life.

     It’s not everyone’s calling to be an iconoclast, but if you feel the urge, you might want to “meow” in public places now and then, or invite strangers to call you “Admiral.” It doesn’t have to be April 1st for us to play the fool!

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