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Nobody who knows me will be surprised to hear that I am painting again; painting walls and ceilings and trim, I mean. But I find myself this morning surprised, nay, dismayed. For somehow, it has come to this; my entryway walls are now aqua. I had been trying to ignore it, but there it is.
A family member confirmed this suspicion yesterday upon a viewing of my work. And at hearing the word, I cringed. How… undignified, to have one’s entry aqua. Aqua, that lovely lyrical Latin lexeme for water, is fine for a bathroom. Or a swimming pool. Or even an oceanic type beach house. But an entryway in a pretty unassuming house in the depressed super honky town of Iron River, MI? The first impression a guest has of my home? Absolutely glaring, tasteless, inappropriate. To make it worse, the darkish blue trim (“Delphinium Corsage”) shows up distinctly purple in full lighting. It recalls the black light murals I painted as a little hippie chick.
I did indeed spend the last year cursing and blustering about the olive drab and muted gold that constituted the old color scheme. Most of this protest was in my own head, like my life in general, of course. I did tend to get testy if anyone politely told me that the colors were fine, no need to paint. I told them that if I painted it, they would see some REAL color. I felt that those muted tones did not express my vibe. ‘Mute’ is word that means “dumb” in the sense of not being able to verbalize. I bought a house full of overly muted colors, in my estimation. They feel heavy, a bit depressed.
Apparently, I am now officially unmuted, but feeling the burn. It’s not because I am putting myself down for “making a mistake”. Luckily I have minimized the word ‘mistake’ from my vocabulary. So-called mistakes that cause emotional shifts are useful; they tell me something new about ME, and therefore, something about everyone. “Mistake” is an attribution, often a coverup, a blanket that hides something more lively. “Mistake” is more like the muted colors on my walls.
And now it’s time to get into the archetypal zone. I am mostly awesome at making my life meaningful because I deal in archetypes, like farmers deal in veggies. Archetypes are, simply, universal experiences that can be symbolized. They are human in nature, though a large area of human archetypes refers to our animal and vegetable friends. Their worldview is likely different from that of humans, though.
And my favoritest archetype is that of The Fool. The Fool is pretty awesome, because its power comes partly from the fact that folks do not want to be that. In Jungian terms, foolishness would be shadowed (unknown, ignored, repressed, suppressed) in many- though if you have somehow ended up being a fool, it’s not shadowed anymore!
As a self professed super duper fan of The Fool, I therefore have invited The Fool’s teachings into my daily life. I am a Fool’s apprentice. When learning about ourselves, what we don’t want is more educational than what we do want, of course. Staying comfy and in control is great; I’m a fan. But it’s not exactly a growth factor. The inner Fool is therefore tasked with surprising us out of our comfort zone. Because if I wanted it, I would not be distressed by it. And if I am distressed by it, I shall avoid it, i.e. don’t want it. It’s circular. Comfort zones are great- in part so that we can get knocked out of them.
I’m not talking foolish as in stupid, dull-witted or lacking intelligence; that’s not part of the archetype, really. I’m not talking ridiculous, as in standing on one’s head and spitting out nickels, though that could have the Foolish effect of shocking one into laughter and mind-expanding lightness. I’m talking here about the soul’s ability to place banana peels in our path. So that we trip and fall and find out what we’re made of. We discover ignored weaknesses and strengths that lurk below the surface. We find out how good we are at falling, at making the most of our falls. We slip, and a rent in the personality opens, an Alice In Wonderland plunge into what lies beneath, and life looks different for a while.
So the purpose of some “mistakes” is this falling away from the status quo. There are a number of myths, folk tales, and other alchemical tales that use this Fool’s trickery. It’s key to understand that the Fool archetype is very much representing the human soul itself. Soul, defined here as that part of our non-physical being that translates, that mediates; between the physically focused personality, and the individual spirit-being we are that is connected to The All And The Everything.
By this definition, our souls are also where the maps and keys to our developmental trajectory lie. The soul knows the many layers of our human journey, and keeps up with how we’re doing as far as making the most of our growth and development opportunities.
The soul as intermediary can interrupt our personality-based lives in order to create space for reassessment, for upgrades. This is one way to configure “mistakes” in our experience, such as embarrassments, accidents, robberies, illnesses, and other losses and failures. The Fool’s ability to trip us up, to cause “mistakes”, is, then, assistance from our souls. If we imagine mistakes in this Foolish way, we can make some transcendent lemonade with our lemons.
I have one iconic (to me) banana peel slip up story. It’s a classic example of a Fool’s trick. I shall here confess it, though for years I cringed at the very thought. The Fool and I are much better buddies now. I have found that confession can be good for the soul, for the Fool asks us to let it all hang out- up to a point, of course. Millions of Catholics can’t be wrong, right?
Here’s how it goes. Some years ago I was living in Albuquerque. One evening I drove to a friend’s house, maybe half a mile away. We then proceeded to an outdoor concert. Afterwards she dropped me off at my house. There was no drinking (or smoking) involved. “Nighty-night!” and off she went.
From your perspective you can see what’s wrong with this picture. I woke up in the morning, looked outside for my car, and the space was empty. I panicked and assumed it was stolen. I will say that a certain someone had been putting a bug in my ear about how my house was in a bad neighborhood and cars were stolen “all the time”, and I am one who doesn’t get into locking stuff up much. I mention that not because I’m attributing blame, but because I fell for the classic Chicken Little syndrome. It only takes one person in your life to start you thinking the sky might be falling.
I called the cops, reported it stolen, and fine. I told folks I knew that my car was stolen. I got plenty of satisfying dramatic reactions, I am sure. Don’t really recall. Then a couple weeks later I walked past my friend’s house, and saw a car like mine parked out in front of her house, covered in bird shit. I was so convinced my car was stolen that I thought, how interesting! A car just like mine, parked in front of her house! Then I realized it was mine. Brilliant.
THEN I called the cops to REPORT THAT I HAD FOUND MY STOLEN CAR. It still did not occur to me- yet- that I had left it there. But, as I sat on my friend’s door stoop, it did. I never told the cop that it was my friend’s house we were in front of. For a mercy the friend did not come home during the goings-on. Admittedly one does wonder how she missed that my car was there, but that’s the Fool for ya. Sometimes it takes more than one to work its magic.
Anyway, some horribly embarrassing weeks later I was not the same person I had been. In brief, the Fool’s calling card is this; “I thought I would never….” fill in the blank. The Fool wants to disabuse you of such strait jackets. Interestingly, the experience of “having my car stolen” was not as psychologically distressing as finding out my foolishness. For in the first case, I felt I was not responsible. In the second case, I faced the fact that I had been the director of the show all along. Victimhood was the most comfy of the two options.
The Fool is ruthless sometimes, yes. However, the rewards are great. Fool shows up often in the arena of striving, of competition, to bust our balloons of aspiration. We fall from the illusion that we are defined by our position in life, such as responsible adult, i.e. person who remembers where their car is. In my mind this former responsible self definition is superior to the foolish one who can’t find their car in the parking lot, or the one who’s always losing their keys.
Note that giving up the self definition does NOT mean I will now begin to lose my car all the time. That did not happen.
Since I had been remembering my car without a hitch for decades, it was a shocker, and I feared for my brain functioning. The worst part was, though, the social shaming (shame is internalized social conditioning) that always accompanies our fall from imagined superiority. It was months before I revealed the truth to anyone besides those who were close enough to figure it out anyway. Folks would think I was off my rocker, a complete idiot. And of course I style myself rather intelligent, and moderately competent.
What must it be like to be that person who really does have trouble with their memory, who is regularly incompetent? That obvious question that proceeded from my experience displays a truth; The Fool’s classroom is full of opportunities for developing compassion. For beneath our ideas of who we are, is the soul’s non-hierarchical humility and oneness. The Fool shocks us into connectivity and inclusiveness, because that is where The Fool, the human soul, always lives. Our mistakes are invitations to meetings with the soul. And so fun that we can’t actually do them on purpose, right? The Fool is the master of paradox.
I recognize the Fool’s hand in my present aqua scenario; I did lose some idea of “who I am”. My overall home decorating scheme as I see it is, in short, dignified with an artistic flair. I have standards, man. And aqua entryways are NOT dignified. Now, when people come to my house, they will probably see me better than I see myself, since “dignified” is actually not my primary experience of ME, or a dominant personality trait. In fact, I am casual and often goofy. Maybe now I will be reminded, as I enter and exit my house, to embrace my frequent lack of dignity.
And I admit to loving the name of the aqua tint: “Fun Times”. Can’t have too much of that, right? In the midst of my aqua distress I realized that, for the last half year or so, I have had stationed on a dresser in that room a collection of 3 lighthouse themed night lights, that I found around the same time last fall. I actually leave them on around the clock. They make me smile many a day; they guard my doorway, inviting love and light.
Lighthouses do indeed represent the soul, which provides guidance, direction, and ultimately, safety. And the day before I started painting in aqua, I found another lamp that was irresistible, since it’s a really ornate one and it cost only 75 cents, half off (all are thrift store purchases, natch). I told myself it was one too many, but at that price…
Then I remembered that I had also just bought 2 pairs of earrings made of shell. My entry way is talking back to me! Sea, sky, sand (the floor is a sandy-colored tile), lighthouses… and those dark green doors are kelp beds now! Though I once styled myself beyond the old black light paint days, they’re obviously coming back. Maybe I’ll check out the price of one now… oooooh, they’re getting cheaper! Wouldn’t THAT be Fun Times when I open the door at night! People could sign their names on the wall in flourescent paint! I already have too many projects started, but maybe some day. Good idea! Thanks, Fool!