Letter From the Editor: In defense of Foolishness

First Days Of Spring – The sky

First days of Spring-the sky
is bright blue, the sun huge and warm.
Everything’s turning green.
Carrying my monk’s bowl, I walk to the village
to beg for my daily meal.
The children spot me at the temple gate
and happily crowd around,
dragging to my arms till I stop.
I put my bowl on a white rock,
hang my bag on a branch.
First we braid grasses and play tug-of-war,
then we take turns singing and keeping a kick-ball in the air:
I kick the ball and they sing, they kick and I sing.
Time is forgotten, the hours fly.
People passing by point at me and laugh:
“Why are you acting like such a fool?”
I nod my head and don’t answer.
I could say something, but why?
Do you want to know what’s in my heart?
From the beginning of time: just this! just this!

-Taigu Ryokan (1758-1831)

Friday evening we tested positive for Covid. I think I laughed when I saw the two lines–a strange mix of disbelief and, for some bizarre reason, relief. Foolishly, I’d been worried about this for so long I’d almost forgotten to worry, and I felt strange, floating. Slept strangely, dreamed of a beautiful thunderstorm, and woke to a bright warm rain. Time folded in on itself and I watched the thick pale fast-moving clouds, remembering having done so as a flu-fueled child. The remembrance of the full absurdity of the state of the world this time three years ago, of everything turned upside down, and all of my oddly nearly-tender memories of the pandemic left me feeling discombobulated. Mostly I’m fine, I just feel a little soft in the head and a little soft in the heart. Fond and foolish.

Which suits my mood and the time of year, because I’ve been thinking about foolishness. I’ve always been a fool, and I now feel inclined to embrace that fact and to proclaim it loudly. Not a wise fool, mind you. Not a cynical all-knowing truth-telling fool. I am a truly foolish fool. An over-caring, over-bearing, over-sharing fool. Too fond, too enthusiastic, too eager. Tail-wagging.

 “Well, I’ve wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I’m happy to state I finally won out over it…Years ago, my mother used to say to me, she’d say ‘In this world, Elwood, you can be oh so so smart, or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart… I recommend pleasant.” Everyone is trying to sell you something or trick you into something. Everyone has a scam and a scheme. Don’t fall for it: ignore it! Why shouldn’t we be foolishly kind? Why shouldn’t we foolishly tell people that we like their shoes or their dog or their thoughts or their art or their poetry? Why shouldn’t we value something not because it wins us anything or makes us money, but because it makes us happy, or, more importantly, it makes others happy? Why shouldn’t we be foolishly glad that everything’s turning green, and the warm rain and the wild wind are washing the earth clean? And why shouldn’t we continue to be humbled and grateful when people let us share their words and their work in foolish Magpies’ Magazines?

As aforementioned, I am feeling a little soft in the head, foggy, so apologies, apologies, for all this nonsense.

I could say something, but why?
Do you want to know what’s in my heart?
From the beginning of time: just this! just this!

Ike Taiga, ca. 1763

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3 replies »

  1. I agree 100 %… with foolish kindness. The world is full of fools. I’m one of them. As I age, my ego fades, and I find the imperfections in life, more easily bared =shamelessly, foolishly so…. The hardest job is embracing the fool,… and let it begin in me : )


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