“April 1. This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four.” ~ Mark Twain
Ah, April Fool’s Day; such a breath of mischievous fresh air. Shenanigans, tomfoolery, clowning, general monkey business, it’s the day we are reminded of the paradoxical truth of the human condition: we are fallible, prone to mistakes, imperfect, barely-evolved animals with heads too full of so-called answers, and hearts full of mostly suppressed questions.
We get lost in our words. We get lost in our minds. We get lost: full stop. And one of the most powerful ways we have to get unlost, to get found again, is through practical jokes, high humor, satire and a loving mockery of the human condition. Now enter April Fool’s Day, the day we’re all free to tap into the archetype of the Fool and let our inner fool-flag fly; the day we give ourselves free reign to run roughshod over our overly-modest and downright prudish sense of structure and orderliness. But there is much to learn on this day. Indeed, more even than this list provides. But for the sake of brevity and time, here are five important lessons April fool’s Day can teach us.
1) The only snake oil salesman you have to fear is yourself
“A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.” ~ Douglas Adams
Ask yourself: do I want to be bamboozled less and enlightened more. If the answer is yes, then look in the mirror at the most deviously, scheming, and underhanded trickster in your life. Yes, it’s you. There’s no reason to fear being bamboozled by a snake oil salesman “out there” as long as the snake oil salesman within you has been put in its place.
Every con-man requires a victim. As long as you’re not a victim, or playing the victim, you cannot be conned. This is easier said than done, mind you. It requires questioning reality, especially yourself (the art of self-interrogation), to the nth degree. It requires being the living embodiment of taking things into consideration using the law of probability instead of blindly believing in whatever.
Most of all, it requires a humor of the most high: the kind of humor that is filled to bursting with laughter and smiles and jokes that trump any amount of anger or frowns or seriousness. It’s the kind of humor that turns the tables (“spins the tables” is probably more accurate) on Power itself, and puts it in its place. Like George Orwell ingeniously jeered, “The aim of a joke is not to degrade the human being, but to remind him that he is already degraded.”
2) A healthy sense of humor is more powerful than power itself
“The moment you say that any idea system is sacred, whether it’s a religious belief system or a secular ideology, the moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible.” ~ Salman Rushdie
Satire has the potential to topple entire power structures. That’s why people who cling to outdated modes of power are so adamant about keeping political cartoons and the like out of circulation.
A healthy sense of humor overthrows programming; which is especially vital when the world is operating under unhealthy programming. By overthrowing our programming, we begin to live on purpose. We begin to live with purpose.
We begin to take our destiny into our own hands, to discover our own authentic power, instead of merely remaining a pawn to chance and the harsh whims of those already in power. By becoming the upsetting factor in a system where “truth” has become parochial and uncouth, we set the groundwork for such truth to be dissolved into compost that has the vital nutrients needed to grow a new and improved order of things.
Only a disruptor of unhealthy programs has the capacity to create healthier programming, and their tool is a sacred sense of humor, which implies, more than anything else, not taking oneself too seriously. Like Max Eastman said, “It is the ability to take a joke –not make one– that proves you have a good sense of humor.”
3) Freedom of expression is paramount
To be creative, truly and uniquely creative, one must be willing to be a stark-raving fool; to sit upon a precarious throne made of toothpicks spitting out equal-parts shit and acumen within a house of cards on top of a jackass walking through an indifferent desert carrying (what we hope are) compassionate desserts.
Disposition is immensely important upon such precarious waters as these. April fool’s Day, probably more than any other day, exemplifies the precariousness of the human condition. And, best of all, it gives us an excuse to have fun with it and to express ourselves.
It forces us into understanding, and hopefully accepting, that creative human expression is very important to our health, not only as individuals, but as a species. So we should feel free to creatively express ourselves no matter what day it is. If we can get away with it on April Fool’s Day then there is no reason whatsoever why we cannot get away with it on the other 364 days in the year.
4) Comfort zones must be stretched in order for genuine compassion to manifest
“It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are of a different opinion, it is because they only know their side of the question. The other party to the comparison (Socrates) knows both sides.” ~ John Stuart Mill
The ability to stretch comfort zones is extremely important, especially living in a world where the comfort zones of others is practically nil. Lest everyone remain a pig, stuck in their overindulgence and excess, or a fool, stuck in their ignorance and cognitive dissonance, we must be able, not only, to stretch our own comfort zones, but have the audacity and courage to attempt to stretch the comfort zones of others.
If we can do this, even with minimal success, then we will have achieved at least a modicum of prestige and heroism in a world too-full of notoriety and victimization. We will have become the modern-day version of Socrates daring others (pigs, fools, victims, and even other wise men) to shatter their mental paradigms, flatten the boxes they desperately try to think outside of, and stretch comfort zones to the point where one goes from being a victim of the world to becoming the world. And we so desperately need more independent people who have interdependently become the world.
5) Playfulness is a powerful key to unlocking the mysteries of the universe
“Tease God. Do not fear God. A fool’s love is what God loves best. It represents the ready and available heart of a child at play.” ~ Bradford Keeney
Robust spirituality is the transformation of anxiety into humor. When we have the capacity to tease God, we all at once subdue our inner snake oil salesman, turn the tables on power through high humor, make creative human expression paramount, and stretch comfort zones to the point where we subsume the world.
When we fear God, we are doing the precise opposite of this. Let’s not fear God, or any power for that matter. Let’s instead have the heart of a child at play. Indeed, the cosmos itself is just one giant sandbox where the eternal cosmic child of our heart should be free to play.
Isaac Newton said it best: “To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me.” We tease God by building sand castles with passion in our hearts, and then toppling them with laughter in our souls. We tease her by teasing each other. We tease each other through our art, through our personified playfulness.
Like Bradford Keeney said, “Words are only useful in teasing one another. In teasing we are less likely to get stuck in any particular belief, attitude, or form of knowing.” Lest we get stuck in any particular belief, attitude, or form of knowing, we must make playfulness primary to seriousness.
Only then, when our self-seriousness has been subdued by our light-heartedness, by self-actualization, will it be revealed that we were holding the key to unlocking the mysteries of the universe all along, and that it was always hidden in plain sight within the heart of our inner-child. Like Heraclitus said, “Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.”