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The Power of The Wise Fool

“The wise man pretends to be a fool.” ~Shakespeare


On a long enough timeline, all timelines disintegrate. The road to self-mastery is a journey not a destination. It’s a process not a result. It’s ultimately a fool’s errand that only a wise man can understand in hindsight.


You either learn and surrender, or you learn and get stuck. If you learn and surrender, then you are going through the painful motions of humiliating your multiplicity of false selves. If you learn and get stuck (become content, believe in a certain idea forsaking all others, or escape into a comfort zone), then you are taking the easy route and honoring your multiplicity of false selves to the extent that your authentic self gets buried in all the “knowledge” you’ve gained.


In order not to be buried by one’s knowledge, a wise man pretends to be a fool. He flips the script on dogma, turns the tables on politics, and stretches the limits of his comfort zone. He transforms boundaries into horizons and inverts knowledge into compost.


But then he goes one step further. He becomes a wise fool.


If, as Shakespeare said, “the wise man pretends to be a fool,” then the wise fool pretends to be a man.


What does it mean to pretend to be a man? It means getting out of one’s own way. It means getting ahead of the curve of the human condition. It means outflanking culture. It means becoming a force of nature first, a man second. It means no hesitation, no fear, and full surrender to the terrible process of rebirth.


As Robert Greene said, “Hesitation puts obstacles in your path, boldness eliminates them. Once you understand this, you will find it essential to overcome your natural timidity and practice the art of audacity.”


A wise fool pretending to be a man is a bolt of lightning in a field of dry grass. It’s a Dionysian breath of fresh air in a stagnant Apollonian atmosphere. It’s a lion waking up from a nap surrounded by a herd of sheep pretending to be asleep. It’s a beacon of darkness piercing through the blinding light of cultural conditioning. It’s a trickster dance trampling over the fragile eggshells of outdated order.


As Sun Tzu suggested “let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”


When outdated gods need to die, the wise fool is the archetype needed to get past the fortified ramparts of your cognitive dissonance. When a profoundly sick society is tricking you into being well-adjusted to it, the wise fool is the healthy rebellion that reconditions your cultural conditioning. When the nightmare needs to be rearranged, the wise fool is the alarm clock that awakens you from pretending to be asleep.


A wise fool pretends to be a man to maintain the sacred order of the cosmos. He is born into death to be reborn. He learns how to unlearn to relearn. His mastery is recycled into re-mastery. His thesis is balanced by antithesis into synthesis into meta-synthesis. As Bruce Lee powerfully stated, the wise fool, “learns the Form, masters the Form, forgets the Form.” It is precisely because he knows he knows nothing that he can know more.


The wise fool cultivates Beginner’s Mind and never allowed the Master’s Complex to dig its claws in. He honors the life-death-rebirth process of self-enlightenment. He encourages the “skyhook” of curiosity lest the “anchor” of certainty hold him back.


A wise fool pretends to be a man to keep the cycle going, to keep the journey ahead of the destination, to keep the Truth Quest ahead of the “truth.” He trumps mastery with tomfoolery. He trumps hard work with playing even harder. He burns down his mastery and spreads the ashes so that the Phoenix of a new idea might emerge.


A wise fool pretends to be a man because deep down inside he realizes that everything is connected to everything else. He is just as much in the universe as the universe is in him. He is a speck in the cosmos, but he is also the entire cosmos in a speck. He is life itself, living itself through him. He is the universe perceiving itself, and so he pretends to be a man when, really, he is all things. He is a wolf, a condor, a whale. He is a misfit, a rebel, a gamechanger. He is the sun, the moon, the shooting star.


A wise fool pretending to be a man outflanks the human condition through absolute nonattachment. Having transformed his knowledge into compost, he is free from its so-called truth. He buries it in himself, a seed, a muscle memory. He soars above it, savoring the delicious solitude of knowing that he does not know.


A wise fool pretending to be a man understands that God is just an abstraction of an abstraction and that we are all just accidents waiting to happen. We’re a Phoenix without a nest. We had to get lost to be found. We had to be burned to come alive. We had to be tossed from heaven with Death as a compass to find our way through the hell that leads to rebirth.


As Jung said, “The Spiritual journey is not a career or a success story. It is a series of small humiliations of the false self that become more and more profound.” The wise fool understands this and humiliates his multitude of false selves in order to give birth to his own authenticity.

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About the Author:

Gary Z McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide-awake view of the modern world.


This article (The Power of The Wise Fool) was originally created and published by Self-inflicted Philosophy and is printed here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Gary Z McGee and It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this statement of copyright.


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