Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Get Your Spark of Madness On for Holy Fool’s Day!

I heartily recommend Gail Larsen's Transformational Speaking work. Here is her latest newsletter editorial; the bold is my emphasis.

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” —Robin Williams

Lately I’ve been applying the above words from Robin Williams, one of my favorite philosophers, to the art of transformational speaking. Most of us tame our madness to fit into what others expect and never use our inherent spark to become the wildly unforgettable speakers and change artists that are needed in these times of shocking transformation.

How would your life be different if you didn’t care what others think? I sometimes ask that question in my classes and when an astute participant responded, “What if I didn’t care what I think?” I realized she was on to something. So armed with both those questions, and assuming you could give up editing and rehearsing yourself around what others may think, or what you yourself may think just for a moment, how then might you express your spark of madness? Would you be the first to speak rather than first feeling out whether your listeners would agree? Would you sing all the songs you know that have the word “blue” in them while waiting in line for a bus as Elizabeth Crook and I did at last year’s Folk Art Market ? (It took folks about 15 minutes of gawking before they joined in.)

Would you voice a wildly unpopular opinion and kindle a new discussion? Would you show up with laughter yoga at a public place like Katie West does regularly? Would you launch a new movement using social media and organize your own demonstration against injustice or corporate domination or nuclear power? Whatever you do, don’t get attached to the outcome. Just go for it, like a group in Santa Fe did on Christmas morning when they showed up on the plaza with signs offering free holiday hugs. (The scrooges I saw who refused missed some fun interaction with some very good-looking people, including local songstress Nancy Nielsen!)

I suggest you no longer try to lose or suppress your spark of madness and instead give it a voice on April 1, which I have taken upon myself to rename Holy Fool’s Day. This festive and often annoying holiday suggests we play tricks on others with a jovial spirit and once we’ve duped them to yell with delight, “April Fools!” Yet comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell talked about the archetype of another kind of fool: the Holy Fool. The Fool is the most dangerous person on earth, Campbell explained, the most threatening to all hierarchical institutions. He has no concern for naysayers, and no one has power over him (or her). She is not limited, not stoppable, nor controllable. She knows what she has to do and is doing it, no matter what.

I think of the Holy Fool as similar to the Court Jester, the only person in the Royal Court who dares to speak truth to the King without consequence. Or the Koshari of the Hopi and Pueblo peoples of the Southwest, who in the midst of sacred ceremonies makes us laugh at ourselves by mimicking our behavior so we can see ourselves in a new way. Just this year on New Year’s I went to the turtle dance at a New Mexico pueblo and at two different times was the recipient of the untoward attentions of such “sacred clowns.” Their role is to create lessons at the expense of another’s seriousness, recognizing that laughter is a great shape shifter of old habits and patterns. I often wonder if the striped ceremonial dress of the Koshari isn’t designed to remind us that getting out of our self-imposed jails isn’t a really good idea.

So here’s a suggestion. How about on April 1 we engage in a dialogue with our inner Holy Fool and Spark of Madness and ask what she most wants to express, convention be damned. Ask where you are being duped day in and day out and not shining the light of your truth. Let’s stop concealing our greatest passions and be willing to say what we love and what we know without editing and rehearsing ourselves into oblivion. Let’s declare April 1 Holy Fools’ Day and engage the madly passionate part of us that has something important to say—and just say it!

Rumi said (and I paraphrase):

I used to be like you.
Calm, rational, controlled.
Now I am seized by passion.
Watch out!
No one’s safe!!!

© Gail Larsen 2011