Mark Twain said, “The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year.”
His point is that we’re fools EVERY day. On April 1 we stop to appreciate the wisdom of folly and the gift of surprise.
It’s a rare occurrence for April Fool’s Day to fall on a Sunday, and even rarer for it to fall on Palm Sunday. It’s the perfect storm of shifting perspectives. Where did the idea of April Fools come from? It likely goes back to when the New Year was connected to the beginning of Spring rather than January 1. In 1564, France moved New Year to January 1. But news travelled slowly and many country folk didn’t realize. So French city dwellers pulled pranks on naïve country dwellers by sticking paper fish on their backs, and so it became a national holiday called April’s Fish, or April Fool’s Day. April Fools is so popular in Scotland that they run it for two days, the second day is totally dedicated to pranks involving the backside. Kick me signs are common. So if you visit Scotland in April, watch out or you might end up the butt of someone’s joke.
I have to say, I’m right behind the Scottish ritual. I like their cheek. And I like the idea of setting aside a day where we have permission to kick each other’s butts, physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. Not in a cruel or heartless way, but to remind each other to get off our butts, get active and not to take ourselves too seriously in the process.
There are so many challenges in the world, so much suffering and so much need. Personal responsibility is paramount. The future of the world is in our hands. Each of us basically has a couple of decades to find our passion, make a mark on the world and get busy making a difference. That’s a lot of pressure and a lot of responsibility. Both April Fool’s Day and The Palm Sunday kick the butt of your passion, and question how you plan to effect change. You won’t have fun all the time, and obviously we all work through tough times, but if there is a quality of joy and cheeky determination to the way you do your work it will be so much more effective.
The inner trickster comes out to play on April Fools Day and tickles your ego with the feather of surprise to remind you not to let the power go to your head, not to become overwhelmed with the burden of choice and not to get locked into perspectives. Perspective is like a deck of cards. Choice is an ace up your sleeve, the card that responsibility pulls out when the deck seems stacked against you. In the game of life, it’s always your move and there are always more options than you realize. You have multiple plays, diverse skills, and creative strategies to regroup and respond in the best way possible. Whenever it starts to feel heavy or joyless, you can always play the joker and lighten your own load. This is the wisdom of folly. (read on for more about the trickster)
The Sufi trickster Nasrudin went every day to beg at the market. People made fun of him by playing a trick: they would show him two coins, one worth ten times more than the other, and Nasrudin would always choose the smaller coin. The story went round the whole province. Day after day, groups of men and women would show him the two coins, and Nasrudin would always choose the smaller one. Then one day, a generous man, tired of seeing Nasrudin ridiculed in this fashion, beckoned him over to a corner of the square and said: ‘When they offer you two coins, you should choose the larger one. That way you would earn more money and people wouldn’t consider you an idiot.’
‘That sounds like good advice,’ replied Nasrudin, ‘but if I chose the larger coin, people would stop offering me money, because they like to believe that I am even more stupid than they are. You’ve no idea how much money I’ve earned using this trick.
There’s nothing wrong with looking like a fool if, in fact, you’re actually being clever.
The trickster is a mythological character in many traditions. The trickster is more than a hero, whose self confidence and skill wins the day and not quite the joker who is able to find the light side in a situation. The trickster appears clueless but gets results, like Sacha Baron-Cohen asking a priest at a pro life rally if he was aborted when he was younger, or Michael Moore wrapping Wall Street in crime scene tape. The trickster paints the world in a new light.
Byrd Gibbens said,
Humans had to have tricksters within the most sacred ceremonies for fear that they forget the sacred comes through upset, reversal, surprise.
In one classic trickster story from Africa, a village trickster taught two friends a lesson in perspective. The two friends had houses that faced each other, both with nice gardens and a path that ran between them.
The trickster dressed in a two-color shirt that was divided down the middle, black on one side and blue on the other side. He then walked along the narrow path between their houses
The two friends were each working across from one another in their gardens. The trickster made a lot of noise to attract their attention as he walked the path.
At the end of the day, one friend said to the other, “Wasn’t it strange the way that guy with the black shirt walked right down our path making so much noise?” His friend replied, “Yes, it was strange. But he had a blue shirt on.”
They started arguing about the color of the trickster’s shirt. “It was black.” “Blue,” shouted the other. “Black!” “Blue!” “Black!” “Blue!”
Just then the trickster returned, walking back along the path between them. The two friends stopped and stared. Now they saw only the other side of the trickster’s shirt.
The first friend quickly apologized. “I am so sorry, my friend. I don’t know how I could have been so mistaken. You are right. His shirt is blue.” And his friend said, “Oh, no, I apologize. You were right. The strange fellow’s shirt was clearly black as you said!”
Then they both stopped and frowned at each other. They both thought the other was mocking him. They began to wrestle and roll on the ground fighting.
Just then the trickster returned and faced the two men who were punching and kicking each other and shouting, “Our friendship is over!” The trickster walked right in front of them, displaying his two-color shirt. He laughed and danced around because of their silly fight.
The two friends saw that his shirt was divided right down the middle, both black and bright blue. They stopped fighting and stood silently. They turned to each other and both said, “I’m sorry.” They had both been right, and they had both been wrong. It was all about perspective. From that day, when either one said something the other disagreed with, they would listen to one another. Different views could indeed both be true, and partly wrong at the same time. Each person has a different perspective, a different point of view. Their friendship became unbreakable.
The role of the trickster is to remind you that life is rarely one way or another. It ebbs and flows from one extreme to another. I heard about an April Fool’s prank at a hospital maternity ward. On the entrance door, they put the sign, “Push. Push. Push.” On the door of the Sperm Bank along the corridor was the sign, “Pull. Pull. Pull.”
You’ve got to respect the push and pull of life. Life is never all one way or another. Its joy and pain, independence and connection, action and acceptance, yin and yang. The trickster occasionally visits to remind us that we only have a partial view of life and not to get locked into conclusions. There is always more. If you’re pushing too hard, the trickster tickles your ego until you have to let go. The trickster is within, always prodding your expectations, popping the bubble of your assumptions and shining light on new possibilities.
Author Christopher Paolini said,
The trickster, the riddler, the keeper of balance, he of the many faces who finds life in death and who fears no evil; he who walks through doors.