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Thoughts on April Fools’ Day 2015

The history of this day is uncertain, but the name of it calls us to reflect on one aspect of our shard humanity. Mark Twain, for example, defined April 1 as “….the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four.” What is it that we are “the other three hundred and sixty-four”? As a noun, the word “fool” identifies a person who acts silly, unwisely, or imprudently. As a verb, it means to dupe, trick, or deceive someone. As an adjective, it describes someone as silly or foolish. However one decides to use the descriptor “fool,” it is not something we usually wish to have applied to us.


So on a more serious note on this otherwise “silly” day, I propose that we reflect on Twain’s comment about our human propensity toward foolish behavior. I think the best summary of such behavior I have ever come across is contained in an ancient Arabian proverb by an anonymous author. It says that “a fool may be known by six things: anger without cause; speech without profit; change without progress; inquiry without object; putting trust in a stranger; and mistaking foes for friends.”


So in addition to using a part of this day to pull the best trick ever on your spouse, child, or friend, it may be good to reflect on these six ways in which we all can act foolish sometimes:

  1. Becoming angry for no good reason. (The negative effects both mentally and physically are well documented)
  2. Saying things that produce negative instead of positive results. (The first divides us from others, the second enhances our relationships with others)
  3. Supporting changes that damage the future good of all instead of improving it. (Think of the current discussion on climate change, unequal distribution of wealth, healthcare etc.)
  4. Raising critical questions without investing the time and effort in the critical inquiry needed to provide solutions. (It is easy to complain and denigrate, time-consuming to seek the objective “truths” about the issue, and sometimes challenging to share the outcome of such inquiry)
  5. Believing what we read, hear, or watch without doing due-diligence on the source and the content. (One of the highly rated TV “news” programs, for example, was recently rated by an independent, non-partisan organization to be truthful only 18% of the time)

William Penn provided some tried and true ways in which to sort out those who are foes and those who are friends. He said that “a true friend accepts freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.”  (We are entering a season of political promises again..listen carefully, check records, analyze results, and pick your “friends” very carefully in terms of Penn’s definition – not only in politics but in real life)