A Foolish Resolution

In 2023, I resolve to be less foolish. That is to say, wiser.

The Born Fool

I can’t think of an era in my life when I didn’t do some fool thing.  I suppose I am, as they say, a natural born fool.

Sometimes my foolishness takes of form of absent-mindedness. There was the time when I went snorkeling with my cell phone still in my pocket. Or the the time I went to a business conference with the price tag still on the sleeve of my new jacket.

The Arrogant Fool

Other times the foolishness is a kind of perverse conceit. There was the time  in gym class when I secretly switched teams during kickball just because I thought teams were a stupid, debasing notion and rest of the morons wouldn’t really notice. But they did. I remember all these teenaged guys stunned by my inexplicable foolishness.

There was the time I skipped my college graduation ceremony, looking on from the sidelines with a beer in my hands. They graduated me with honors. Such a smart, arrogant fool I was.

The Damned Fool

There was the time I insisted on selling a house we loved to gain money and time that I later squandered (yes, on what turned out to be a foolish pursuit).

Or the time I threw away a graduate school scholarship by stubbornly refusing to complete a final exam. (Oh, there were various reasons. Still, though, deep foolishness.)

So, not just a fool. A stubborn fool.

Sometimes my foolishness has only harmed myself. But too often it has spilled into other lives as well.

So a damned, selfish fool.

The Fool’s Errand

This year I vow to put away my foolishness.

Which may be the most foolish thought of all. And, not just because I’m a born fool. But because I sense that foolishness is a lot like height, weight or IQ. That is, everybody is on the scale somewhere, but when we plot out each person’s level of foolishness, it turns out to be a bell curve.

The Mean Fool

If I’m right about the bell curve, then if we were to add up each person’s foolish acts and thoughts, they would cluster toward the middle. Let’s just assume (stealing from the IQ concept) the average person has a foolishness quotient of 100.

The Standard Normal Probability Distribution with shaded regions, originally created by D Wells and then modified by M Vickers

Now, as with any bell curve, there will be people on either end, the exceptions to the rule. Just as there are extremely tall and extremely short people, there are people who are extremely foolish and those who are barely foolish at all. Perhaps we could even call them wise.

I don’t know where exactly on the spectrum I am. Perhaps I’m only an average fool (we could call this the mean fool mark), though I suspect I have skewed further to the right.

The Wise Fool

Wherever I fall on my fool’s scale, I’d like to move further to the left, reducing my fool’s quotient in 2023.

Is that possible? They say that with age comes wisdom. Perhaps. As goofy as I sometimes am today, I’m not quite the young fool of my teens and 20s.

But I’m also not banking on the whole “aging into wisdom” concept.

Instead, I’ll actively pursue greater wisdom. I’ve known some wise people–even some who were relatively wise at a young age. They will be my role models in the coming year. This year I’ll ask myself “what would she do in this position”?

Of course, maybe wisdom starts with knowing that you’re going to be a fool at times. Perhaps we should even embrace a reasonable degree of foolishness. After all, if we are never being foolish, it probably means we’re not actually engaging with the world, existing only within the neat confines of our comfort zones.

To me, that also seems foolish. But then, consider the source…

Featured image from Quinten Metsys, South Netherlandish, 1466–1530, Keep Your Mouth Shut, About 1528, Oil paint on panel