Fooled me once… March 31st, 2009

I have never been a big fan of April Fools Day.   That is a good day to be tricked, humiliated, made the butt of jokes, and labeled as a “fool.”  What’s the attraction?  I suppose it’s a great day for the sadist jokesters, the hoax-makers, the people who will create a big laugh for themselves by turning other people into victims.   “It’s so EASY!” they think.  

And someone has created this day just for them.  And we let them.  What fools we are! 

We are all measured by this process of foolery.  Can the victim take the joke?  Is his ego strong enough to accept being deflated and flattened as he’s revealed to be the stupid gullible idiot that he is?  On the other side:  is the sadist’s joke too mean-spirited?  Is he merely hiding behind the legitimacy of the holiday to give himself permission to be aggressive and hostile?   

Likely answer: yes.  On April 1st, fool-hunting season is officially open! 

And it is like shooting fish in a barrel.  Fools are everywhere.  In fact, from a certain perspective, foolish behavior is just another way to say “human behavior.”  We are all fools, all the more so when we pretend that we are not.   Consider these two things: 

1)   who but a fool would bother making plans in the face of inevitable death? 

2)   Who but a fool would dwell on death to the exclusion of life?  

I think that covers everybody. 

We foolishly believe in our own goodness and power in the face of evidence to the contrary.  We think we understand how the world works.  We think we know ourselves and understand others.   In each case we are convinced that we do – until we are convinced that we don’t.  Sometimes we believe ourselves to be wise.  Sometimes we think we do understand.  For a time we believe we will survive whatever experience we commit to.   All this is true until we realize we are idiots and we don’t understand and we become aware that we’re all going to die.  

I know all of this because I watch the movie Groundhog Day.  

Phil Connors reveals himself to be a fool, over and over again.   He’s a guy who thinks he understands himself and the world with all certainty.  Then doubt.  Then certainty.  Then doubt…. 

Every time he thinks he has come to understand the world he is living in, he proves himself wrong.   When he has a big epiphany and realizes that he is in control of his world and the people in it (“I’m not going to live by their rules anymore!”) he thinks he understands how the world works.   What a fool.  He eventually finds this unfulfilling and boring and tedious and clearly not the point.    Each stage of his life carries with it a new understanding, only to be followed by another stage, disproving the previous one. 

The saying (which I learned from Gomer Pyle) goes, “Fooled me once, shame on you.  Fooled me twice, shame on me.”   But so frequently it does not even stop at twice!  There is a lot of shame associated with being a fool. 

If life is the jolly prankster, then all of us are fools.  The story of Groundhog Day is that we repeatedly fall for the same trick, over and over, until we don’t anymore – at which point we proceed to fall for a different trick. 

The end of the movie suggests a certain certainty for Phil, but if I were to get inside Phil’s brain I’d guess that he is only certain of his foolish nature – and he’s okay with that.  I don’t think he believes he knows anything for certain, and he holds in his quiver a lifetime of memories of being certain only to be subsequently proved to be wrong.    The biggest difference between the old Phil and the new Phil is that, even though he is still a fool, now he is a fool with humility. 

I suppose people need to be reminded of our common humanity from time to time, and being reminded of this by exposing our foolish nature is one way to go.   Your basic good comedy movie accomplishes this as a matter of course.  

If I ever liked anything about April Fools Day it was the proliferation of clever satires and similar comedy entertainment – in a way celebrating our common foolery by being self-deprecating about humanity itself.    

So, fine.  Happy April 1st.  Go have your fun.  Your fool-hunting license expires on April 2nd, although without government regulators in this area don’t be surprised if the privilege is exercised year-round.

4 Comments »

Comment by A Long
2009-04-02 11:30:38

Maybe I’m not understanding your analysis. It seems the generous, kind-hearted, and trusting among us don’t measure up, while the survivalists, con artists, and hardened cynics grade out nicely.

My experiences with the day have been more benign. More like a return to Twain’s era of well-told whoppers. There are far more painful things than having one’s leg pulled by an expert. (Or even by a competent amateur.) I think I’ll keep enjoying April Fool’s Day. Were it a week or a month long…then I’d share your concerns. One day a year, however, I can stand.

I’ll give you this, though. What if Phil was stuck somewhere on April Fool’s Day? That could have been an excruciating fate. Thank you for sparing him from that.

Comment by danny
2009-04-02 16:41:30

Touche on all counts.
This is actually one of my lamer entries, and I don’t in fact harbor any particular ill will toward April Fools Day. I have some thoughts about fools and humanity and saw this calendar date as a convenient time to pull the trigger. Not sure it really came out right. Ah well. Onward.

Comment by A Long
2009-04-03 05:32:01

Could have been worse. You got this out of your system before Mother’s Day came along, anyway.

 
 
 
Comment by bruiboumn
2009-10-29 14:42:04

I could agree in 100%.
He’s the best part if this.

cheers,
______________
bruiboumn
where to get soma with no script in Wellington
http://forums.acdjapan.com/index.php?showuser=3659

 
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