Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fool's Day

The usual tradition here at Augoeides for April Fool's Day is to find some satirical article about religion and comment on it as though it were genuine. However, some years are better than others in this regard. After a fair amount of searching, I've concluded that there's nothing out there even remotely recent that I'm finding particularly funny this year. It seems as if the various satirical sites are drifting in the direction of spoofing politics and celebrities, without much in the way of stories that fall within the range of articles that normally appear here. So instead, I've decided to break with tradition and post this story from Huffington Post on the origin of the holiday and its surprising connections to Judeo-Christian religious traditions.

The day began, most believe, in 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII decreed the adoption of the “Gregorian calendar” — named after himself — which moved New Year’s Day from the end of March to Jan. 1. The change was published widely, explains Ginger Smoak, an expert in medieval history at the University of Utah, but those who didn’t get the message and continued to celebrate on April 1 “were ridiculed and, because they were seen as foolish, called April Fools.”

Even though the annual panoply of pranks meant to mock the gullible or to send a friend on a “fool’s errand” may not be grounded in any ancient religious merrymaking, the notion of “holy fools” does have a long and respected place in Judeo-Christian history. Hebrew prophets were often scorned as mad or eccentric for pronouncing unwelcome or uncomfortable truths. The Apostle Paul talked to the Corinthians about becoming “fools for Christ.” And Eastern Orthodoxy still sees the “holy fool” as a type of Christian martyr.

Such views are wrapped up in paradox. “If the wisdom of the world is folly to God, and God’s own foolishness is the only true wisdom,” argues British clergyman John Saward in “Perfect Fools: Folly for Christ’s Sake in Catholic and Orthodox Spirituality,” “it follows that the worldly wise, to become truly wise, must become foolish and renounce their worldly wisdom.”

Somehow I have a hard time seeing falling for satirical news stories from The Onion as a manifestation of divine wisdom. However, at the same time there's a connection here between the "Holy Fool" notion and the concept of "beginner's mind" that is alluded to in Buddhist teaching. In order to apprehend states of consciousness beyond the rational, it is necessary to let go of conditioning and preconceptions that will tend to limit the overall experience. Gregory XIII probably wasn't considering any of that when he set in motion the events that created the modern holiday; he just wanted to impose a new calendar. But thanks in part to the Internet and the ease with which it allows spoofs and satire to propogate, April Fool's Day is here to stay.

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