spacer
The Vacuum Issue 10 spacer Issue 10
Holy Fools And Village Idiots
by Daniel Jewesbury
spacer
Which would you rather have? The simple, bucolic life of the village idiot, collapsed in a heap by the stocks, supping ale from your noggin, tolerated by the good burghers because they know that you are the chiaro scuro that makes their dazzling wealth and power possible? Dedicated to a life of inexpert chicken worrying, and of gazing upwards, disbelieving, at the circling hawk, unable to fathom its freedom, bound to the earth as you stupidly are?
spacer
Or the more oxymoronic situation of the holy fool, the dreamer out of time, trapped in a reverie that forbids your communion with this mere world, this Satan's mess? Not a mere life of the mind, this, but an abstraction of life, and of mind, dismissed as an idiot but blessed by one who has touched you alone?
spacer
In times gone by (remember them? Well, do you?) various types of mental illness or incapacity were quite neatly categorised under the heading 'idiocy' (especially in villages, where of course they didn't have access to the latest scientific techniques, such as the drilling of patterns of holes in your skull to allow the bad vapours to evaporate). However, some more far-sighted experts in their field expanded the diagnosis to cover both evil (witchcraft and so on) and divinity (hence the expression 'touched' - the simple weren't just stupid, they were 'special' and had been touched by God).
spacer
These days, with cyberspace taking the place of the transcendent afterlife, the holy fools are those ones who said that the internet would change our lives unrecognisably, or who promised that the engineer would be round on Tuesday morning to connect us. Divine ecstasy is replaced by a good Googling. The village idiot is also transformed to suit the modern age. Actually our contemporary mistrust of wealth and power, that's to say the disappearance of deference, has led to one interesting reversal, such that one man referred to by millions as the 'village idiot' is actually a millionaire (and a Premiere League footballer, and a racist). We are the good burghers now, and someone has bravely / foolishly taken on the horrific burden of all that cash so that we don't have to, and they are living the darkness so that we may fly freely in the light.
spacer
spacer
The sense I have is that the life of the village idiot was probably less complicated than that of the holy fool. The fool would have to endure the gaze of the mass (think of some of our own holy fools, the 'wise men' who delight us with their rants about sodomy or the devil's buttermilk), and of course there was always the possibility that a change in the political dispensation might bring a corresponding change in the organisation of religious affairs. The holy fool could find him or herself becoming kindling fairly quickly. The glassy cataract that had once signalled that the fool must have another kind of sight, an inner or divine vision, would again become simply the feared mark of difference. Fool becomes freak.
spacer
No, the uncomplicated life of the idiot is the one for me (quiet in the back there). It doesn't take much to work out which is preferable. The fool is expected to come out with some profound, but incomprehensible, insight which only the generations to come will understand. As the idiot, one can relax, safe in the knowledge that others' low estimation of you will only add to their amazement when one day you put your cider down, stand unsteadily up, and reveal to them the beautiful lucidity of your mind, as you communicate your insights into their nasty, mean lives, their petty acquisitiveness, their disloyalties, superficialities and caprices. See you down the village green.
spacer
Holy Fools And Village Idiots
spacer
spacer
home | information | issues | artists & writers | columns | reviews
spacer