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Saturday, 23 January 2016

Fraser, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Collins & Houtheusen: The fool sees things the wise person never can

Giles Fraser had a great comment piece in yesterday's Guardian about Tolstoy and War and Peace:

"Tolstoy believed there was quite a lot to be said for foolishness, here goes: all Christians are fools. Politicians can’t allow themselves to look or behave like fools. Therefore, politicians cannot be Christian ...

Tolstoy reminds us that to be a Christian is to be a fool and a social outcast, that anyone who wishes to follow Christ has to be prepared to die as an enemy of the state, nailed to the cross. It’s a little bit more than a few verses of Shine, Jesus, Shine on a Sunday morning ...

the fool sees things the wise person never can."

Jim Forest reminds us that, "In Leo Tolstoy’s memoir of his childhood, he fondly recalls Grisha, a holy fool who sometimes wandered about his parent’s estate and even came into the mansion itself without knocking on the door. “He gave little icons to those he took a fancy to,” Tolstoy remembered."

In an article for the Financial Times, Harry Eyres writes:

"The holy fool, or fool for Christ, is a key figure not just in Orthodox religion but in Russian culture. Holy fools are disruptive; they go around half-naked, act as Robin Hoods, taking from the rich and giving to the poor; and, as Sergey Ivanov writes in Holy Fools in Byzantium and Beyond (2006), they “provoke outrage by [their] deliberate unruliness” ...

The figure of the holy fool appears repeatedly in the novels of Dostoevsky. There are “true” holy fools, such as Elder Zosima, the inspired preacher in The Brothers Karamazov, and Bishop Tikhon in The Devils; there are also false holy fools, such as Semyon in the same novel. But the most fascinating holy fool of all may be Prince Myshkin, the hero of The Idiot, who is never explicitly named as such. Myshkin represents Dostoevsky’s attempt to portray “a positively beautiful man”; naive to the point of gullibility, emotionally empathetic and open, Myshkin ends up ruining the lives of the two women he loves. Perhaps Dostoevsky’s point is that in a thoroughly corrupt society even attempts to do good are bound to come to grief."

The Fool became a major theme and life focus for the mystical painter, Cecil Collins. For Collins, the Fool represents “innate, inviolate, primordial innocence which sees clearly” with our purpose in life being to recover that direct perception; the vision of the Fool. The Fool “is interested … in love and its manifestation in that harmony and wholeness which we call beauty” but because he is in “a state of creative vulnerability and openness” the Fool “is easily destroyed by the world.”

See also my ArtWay article entitled The Spirituality of the Artist-Clown. The significance of the clown in the life and work of Albert Houthuesen.


The Rolling Stones - Fool To Cry.

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