April 12, 2022 at 6:01 pm #74890Stephen GerringerKeymaster
Gabrielle Basha is our guest in Conversations of a Higher Order this week to discuss “Fools Rush In,” her most recent contribution to JCF’s MythBlast essay series (click on title to read). In addition to serving as JCF’s Communications Manager and a member of the executive communications team at the Wikimedia Foundation, Ms. Basha is a writer and educator with a background in art history and children’s literature.
This is your opportunity to share your thoughts, questions, comments, and observations with Ms. Basha (and with each other). I’ll get us started, but it’s your participation that makes this a “conversation of a higher order.”
Gabrielle – I know absolutely nothing about Station Eleven (either the novel or the miniseries). In fact, the title called to mind the Stations of the Cross that tradition tells us Jesus walked on Good Friday; at the Eleventh Station he is nailed to the Cross. (That association may have nothing to do with the author’s intent – at least, not consciously – but there is a certain synchronicity with this time of year).
Your essay lured me in, Gabrielle. At first, though intrigued by the plot, I wasn’t clear what this story had to do with our April theme of The Fool – until we arrived at Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (and Tom Stoppard’s brilliant re-imagining of Shakespeare’s Fools). The payoff, though, is your final paragraph – I have yet to read any better description of this archetypal image.
My question is how does one consciously cultivate this quality in oneself? What clues might literature or myth provide to help us embrace our inner Fool – or do we just have to stumble into it?April 13, 2022 at 7:08 pm #74893Gabrielle BashaKeymaster
Stephen, thank you so much for the introduction and the thoughtful comments and question.
I want to start by saying I’m thrilled you’ve picked up on the connection to Station Eleven and this weekend’s holiday (it feels way too on-the-nose to call it an Easter egg, but…). It was challenging for me to keep my essay this week brief because there’s SO much that can be said about the Christian allegory in Mandel’s excellent novel: from the plague to the title’s reference to sacrifice (and life after death!), the text is brief but incredibly rich. I found myself thinking about it for months after reading it and before even knowing there was a TV show in production.
As for how we ourselves can be more Fool-ish, there’s so much to be said about bravery in art—Leigh Melander’s MythBlast kicking off our April theme two weeks ago really struck a chord with me. The invisible spine within my own essay is this concept that the courtly fool, the jester, is the only one in the room who can speak truth to power. The jester is seen by the court as simply the clown, but in reality they have to be absolutely surgical with their calculations in how to use truth to get laughs and not literally lose their head in the process. They have to be both carefree and calculated at the same time, all the time. They have to have the tension of a survivor. In this way, the fool in the castle, the actor on the stage, and the survivor on the post-apocalyptic road have to have the same mindset.
These people can’t have their guard down, and for some of us, things aren’t *quite* that dire right now, but for many others, they absolutely are. People around the world at all times are in the position to ask themselves every day: Is my art worth my safety? Is my expression worth my life? You have to make those decisions for yourself. And people who decide no, it’s not worth it, you know, we can’t possibly blame them. Those who decide yes, it is worth it, become legends. Or, of course, are remembered as fools. It depends on who’s telling the story.
(I’d also be remiss not to point to the book Art & Fear as the formative text for me while I was studying art history for my undergraduate degree. Anyone interested in this concept who hasn’t read it should pick it up ASAP.)
I’ve always admired the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of Stoppard’s play, not only because it’s a very funny show but because he portrays them with such genuine curiosity and depth of wonder. That is something I try to remind myself to carry with me. It’s something I really love about talking to children. We should all strive to have the Fool’s sense of wonder.April 22, 2022 at 7:22 pm #74892
I love this Gabrielle!
Yes I’ve danced “the fool,” a few times literally including “fool on the hill,” and have worn jester inspired costumes for some of these as well…
And have a literal “fool/jester mask.”
But this is off on a dance tangent…
Back to your essay.
The journey of the fool is poignant…
Fragile as a bird but daring heights and different views.
But then when one sets themselves to the wind…they might as well be walking that tightrope between everything.
Want to come back to the tightrope later.
When you quote Campbell:
Mythology, in other words, is not an outmoded quaintness of the past, but a living complex of archetypal, dynamic images, native to, and eloquent of, some constant, fundamental stratum of the human psyche… While our educated, modern waking-consciousness has been going forward on the wings and wheels of progress, this recalcitrant, dream-creating, wish-creating under-consciousness has been holding to its primeval companions all the time, the demons and the gods. (18)
And it seems sadly peculiar to me that which is defined as “recalcitrant,” (and maybe even “backward,” or “out-moded”) is the very thing, which opens to beyond. That dreaming process is also a creative process not just by making but by thinking as well.
We know in the past evolution had its Aha! Dawning and Discovering moments.
Sometimes it seems that logic should dream and imagine as well as figure out. (This isn’t about Blind Belief what logic always fears) but more about wholeness. Think Einstein expressed this by saying “Imagination encompasses the whole world.”
And well the Fool thrives by imagination.
And he/she certainly tests the boundaries!
So that hovering question is can we really afford to sacrifice the imagination in the name of evolving by logic alone? Or can we at least keep the wonder alongside the memorization?
My Mother was an astronomer and earth scientist. Masters in physics and astronomy from Emory and taught astronomy at Fernbank in Ga.
But since it’s earth day: some of my first memories of her.,.she gives my young hand a leaf for inspection…
She describes pinnate and palmate leaves and pointed and rounded lobes of different oaks. Lobes, I understand because that’s like ears!
But something ElSE is happening here…for she has also pointed out the hair of the woman and the ears of the rabbit in the moon.
Wonder is at play.
And is not funny that the words Fool and Play often go together!
And yet one can still learn from this…
but it is a different kind of learning.
Now I just may have to check out Station 11! (Thank you also for the recommend of Ted Lasso last year! That was a pleasure to watch!)
I’m not certain but think there is ? a James Patterson book called Jester?
Or it may be another author in the same genre.
It is really interesting…focuses on the life of a medieval red-haired jester traveler player (it’s not fantasy) but the protagonist becomes a mythic archetype within the story. He’s pushed into dangerous situations but somehow manages to find a way.
These days have a sense there is another function of Myth strongly at play within our society: that of The Village Compound.
Well yes this has always been a strong part of myth and history through time.
But to me within the last few decades
this side of the myth seems to be given more emphasis than the various journey myths, both physical and inward.
(and my God! Looking at the world through those years up to today, very understandable! It certainly can be a scary place to be!)
And that will probably come back to the quote of is it good enough “just to survive?” I re-worded it…so there’s the complexity because of also knowing sometimes the “tourniquet” must be applied first to “staunch and stabilize.”
So it can become infinitely complicated.
As for the Myth of the Village Compound, I think it offers a kind of “secureness.” So understandably THAT has More emphasis. Yet interestingly the Compound also represents what it always has: gates and parameters.
So Now it is about how each individual and the human collective relate to those parameters. Will they say Yes? Or No?
Because it feels like in modern times the Compound is not just what surrounds the villagers. It is The villagers and the community.
I love the village compound here at JCF by the way (smile.)
But this is different compound.
Any and all adventures must relate first to the boundaries and parameters in order to prove their worth and place in their community.
So journey myths have a different place and the seeking of them is done “within” the gates…until the gates eventually open.
So that has a slightly different but similar dynamic as the old stories.
But one would have to feel for the archetype of the Fool, who seems to always rush in or sometimes rush out, when they are not supposed to…
What does one do? Or choose?
The de-crying of the Fool has often portrayed the character as the One who will harm the world with their foolishness. So they must be de-cryed for the harm they are expected to cause.
Now one can make an argument for narcissism harming the world…
Yet you have pointed out the fool can have the appearance of naïveté which in fact hides a deep type of wisdom. This is not narcissism. For the fool takes the chance even “appearing foolish,” when the narcissist might avoid that.
And what an excellent point you also make that the “fool is not paralyzed by fear.”
Yet we know the fool can be aware of the danger? Or so can the journeyers.
Just like the young woman in Station 11 “we are artists. Of course we are terrified.” How moving is that?
Yet unlike the Shakespeare characters of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern…
It may be that Non-paralyzation, which saves someone. Maybe not always but possibly.
Now I don’t know how station 11 ends. Since I have not seen it…so heh heh…or read it.
Maybe the trick is to be careful when putting a tourniquet on any wound “to NOT put a tourniquet as well on All the Music.
It’s interesting you mention tightrope and fool. David Doersch, the head of an East Coast Celtic Rock band (long since de-banded) wrote a song inspired by an artist’s painting of a fool. It seems the painting was called “The Traveler?” And maybe the bands’ song was as well, though I always called it The Fool.
But the lines mention everything about the fool…from juggling balls of fate…to walking on a tightrope to even flying with the “lady in a shroud.” So it kind of sums up everything. The fool leaning right into the wind to the end. (His end.)
Of course Paul McCartney’s Fool on the Hill can be a beautiful place to observe the world as well…or maybe it’s just Earth Day…(every day!)April 24, 2022 at 12:50 am #74891
BRIEF: Just saw “Fantastic Beasts 3: Secrets of Dumbledore”
One name: Jacob Kowalski (the muggle) and no magic. But brave and foolishly so. And he definitely rushes in…because of his heart. His compassion.
So that’s kind of perfect.
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