Fool’s Dictionary

As a response the Facebook page that I started as a companion for this blog, a friend wrote me that what she enjoyed reading the most were the definition-like entries for individual terms like will, friendship, intimacy, shadow … and joked that I should compile them into an alternative dictionary. I thought it wasn’t a bad idea, and so I did. Fool’s Dictionary ( is something in between Profane Light, with its long, reflective essays, and the Facebook page, with its frequent bursts of fragments, musings and incidental remarks – although there’s a kind of loose promiscuity between all three. I chose the word “fool” for the suggestive associations of the archetype. The fool inhabits a topsy-turvy world, sometimes playing the court jester who speaks the truth to power, at other times betraying the carefree innocence of a child who is unschooled in the language and conventions of the adult world.

Below are a few opening paragraphs of the first of the dictionary-like entries. Some of the posts are (and will be) written specifically for single terms, as inspiration strikes, others will be revised, bite-sized descriptions of terms that I’ve already used in the longer essays here (love, shadow, projection, magic, magician, alchemy, transmutation, sovereignty, generosity, happiness, joy)…

> Fool:

The fool, folly and madness exist along a continuum of meanings – in some languages, the words are even indistinguishable. There are many types of fools: the fool who is crazy in love, temporarily dispossessed of the faculty of instrumental reason and given over to excessive bouts of generosity, adulation and reckless behavior; the fool in the guise of the court-jester, like the shadow accompanying Lear on his journey, who is able to speak truth to power and to criticize the madness of kings and the folly of social conventions; and the fool deemed utterly “mad” by the commonsensical world, who is sometimes locked up in asylums or banished to floating islands, and at other times praised for the crazy wisdom that’s the unique providence of poets and prophets. The fool is someone who is stripped naked and has relinquished the social masks of normality, decorum and proper behavior. (continue reading)

> Friendship:

Friends, like lovers, stand face to face and gaze into each other’s depths. There doesn’t need to be a third thing – a common interest or hobby, or a quest for a shared truth – that binds friends like an external glue, and the bond is often deeper when this third thing isn’t the main attraction. When we love friends, we value them for who they are as complete persons, for their idiosyncrasies and quirks, their beautiful virtues, their annoying habits, their smiles and laughter, their tears, and their unique style of expressing life. When we love friends as ends in themselves, as repositories of their own uniqueness, they are utterly irreplaceable. There is no seriality in close friendships, each friendship is a universe onto itself. We might be happy if a third and fourth and fifth friend joins the party, especially in contexts with a feeling of gregariousness and fun, but we also value the intimacy of each singular connection, which is often deeper when shared in twos. (continue reading)

> Intimacy:

Intimacy is … nakedness. The kind of nakedness that comes from being emotionally open to another human being without barriers and self-imposed restraints, the willingness to reveal the full range and intensity of our thoughts and emotions and personalities. Intimacy is a full disclosure without masks, without dissimulation, without playing a role – and this is what separates it from the social face we adopt with many other people in many other contexts of daily life. In an intimate relationship we reveal ourselves with all our beauties, flaws, evasions, fears, weaknesses and shadows. We say to each other, you have shown me the best and the worst of yourself and I love you not despite but because of it. (continue reading)



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