I have for a long time been interested in understanding why I do what I do in a given environment or why people react as they do and I have read many books and theories by psychologists who have studied human behavior. One theory that keeps coming up is that each one of us is born with twelve inner guides: the Innocent, the Orphan, the Warrior, the Caregiver, the Seeker, the Destroyer, the Lover, the Creator, the Ruler, the Magician, the Sage and the Fool. Each Inner guide has a lesson to teach us and each presides over a stage of our journey through life. They are within our unconscious psychological life. This explains why you are told many times over that all you need to grow into the best ‘you’ is found within you. Many books have been written about awakening the heroes within or the giants within.
It should be remembered that as we walk through life, the environment determines our behavior, actions and motivation. It can facilitate or discourage interactions among people. Those who adapt well to their environment will survive and thrive.
Currently, the majority of the world’s population is confined in their homes: one room, a big house, a flat or a small space in the open market for the market women and men in Kampala. This has been forced on us by the COVID-19 Pandemic. In December 2019, it spread fast from Wuhun, China to almost all the 195 countries in the world, creating and leaving great havoc in its path. Its spread had to be controlled aggressively and its damage on our health, well being and economy had to be minimized. Here in Uganda, I have not left my home since the President declared the first restrictions on 20th March 2020.The Lockdown has now been extended to 20th May 2020. For anyone used to waking up in the morning, going out to work, moving about freely and returning home when you want , staying at home for almost two months is a very limiting situation. It affects our physical, mental and spiritual well being.
It is associated with mood changes in the twenty four hours of the day: from enthusiasm and expectation in the morning to confusion and uncertainty and anxiety, stress and frustration in the evening. This is a normal response to living in a confining environment and one can only take comfort by reminding herself/himself that it is temporary.
So how do you keep going? You have to remain hopeful that it will end though you are not sure when or how and then you turn within yourself to look for the Inner guides that can help you break the boredom. These are : the Innocent and the Fool. Last week I concentrated on how you can tap into the Innocent or Inner child in you to create a game out of the confinement, this week I am concentrating on the Fool within. The Fool in us looks for enjoyment, pleasure and aliveness and her/his worst fear is not to be in the moment. The Fool lives one day at a time with little concern for tomorrow. He is interested in freedom and fun irrespective of the space.
In case you have been so serious with life or become so rigid and locked into old ways that you have forgotten how activating the Fool within you can change your world, go back to the time you were an adolescent. Your actions were motivated by curiosity and want to explore and experiment with life. You had little interest in being responsible. What you wanted most was to have freedom and fun. You wanted to be free from what demanded things from you that were not fun. You were perfectly happy to appear ridiculous, to try unconventional styles and could stretch it to being outrageous. Because of your age, you were naïve, inexperienced and therefore more open to imagination and new ideas.
When the Fool is dominant in your life, you have the desire to try everything and do everything, even when forbidden.
As you grew up, you began accepting responsibilities, deadlines and relationships and other Inner guides like the Lover, the Ruler and Creator took over , leaving the Fool to emerge only in recreation. Once in a while the Fool could emerge to spice up your work and private life only if you allowed it. Naturally, the Fool may reemerge in the mid-life crisis allowing us to give up living life in terms of achievements , goals, and “making a difference” and enjoy life for its own sake. This is another opportunity in life to be hungry for experience and adventure.
Like the Joker in a deck of playing cards, the Fool can turn up anywhere. It often emerges in our lives at the moments that seem most painful like this COVID-19 Lockdown which was not planned. It caught many people in the wrong places, away from loved ones and away from the old and familiar.
At times like this, each one of us should willingly tap into the Fool within to be enlivened and invigorated. The Fool will allow us to laugh at ourselves, life itself and what is going on around us and even joke about the messages from the Ministry of Health.
The Fool is infinitely inventive and entertaining: it becomes too busy enjoying the reality of life in the moment to waste energy grieving for order or meaning.
Some of you must have seen the funny videos circulating on You Tube and WhatsApp. There was one video by the US- based South African comedian, Trevor Noah, comparing President Trump and President Amin Dada of Uganda in their own words. There was also another video by an American lady comedian making fun of President Trump’s idea of injecting patients with disinfectant to kill the COVID-19 Virus.
Such things help us to deal with the absurdities of this modern world especially during this first modern pandemic. The Fool tradition often provides a means to violate social norms in humourous ways and hence to avoid provoking undue hostility. The Fool in us reminds us that life is sweet even at its worst moments. The Fool gives us resilience – the capacity to get up and try again. When there is too little Fool in our lives, we may become repressed, uptight, tired, bored, depressed or lacking in curiosity.
Well established cultural institutions like the Bugada Kingdom , have always kept a court jester or Fool to entertain the king and his guests. He had to be a keen observer, had to have insight – to have the capacity to to make fun of the king or queen under the cover of humour and getting away with it.
During this unprecedented period of uncertainty, let us all activate the Fool in our lives to sustain our zest for life, for sensual pleasures, ideas, experiences, even spiritual bliss. Do not worry much about breaking the rules ad getting in trouble for at this stage in your life; you have other experiences to keep you in check so you cannot be too “irresponsible”. You can safely play tricks on those around you as you explore the world around you out of innate curiosity, creating for the simple joy of creation and living life for its own sake.
Henry Ford once said: “Too many men are afraid of being fools.”
And Epictetus, the Greek philosopher said : “ If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.”
It is the Fool in us who gives us the space to express our selves in the world, not so much to transform as simply to give expression to who we are.
Has this post stimulated you into playing tricks on those around you and getting into mischief without provoking undue hostility? Then just do it for the fun of it.