Monday, October 29, 2012
concerning the fool
humata, hukhta, huvarshta. we had a nice exchange in our last reading. here are my ten cents.
first, what's a fool?
64. If a fool be associated with a wise man, even all his life, he will perceive the truth as little as a spoon perceives the taste of soup.
the spoon perceives nothing. so, the fool is basically ignorant: he/she just cannot tell the difference. thus,
67: That deed is not well done of which a man must repent, and the reward of which he receives crying and with a tearful face.
the fool doesn't understand the cause-effect correspondence between deed and reward. this is pratitya sumutpada: you reap what you sow.
don't take this to be an ethical pronouncement. rather, it's the way things are! in this case, dharma & karma follow a universal law. the fool's ignorance is that he/she's out of synch with reality. the fool wishes the reward to be different than it is when time is ripe. but the deed/reward correspondence cannot be bent. thus:
69. As long as the evil deed done does not bear fruit, the fool thinks it is like honey; but when it ripens, then the fool suffers grief.
the problem with the fool is that he/she doesn't understand that reality is surreptitiously piecemeal. the effect of our deeds is pending in the future. we really don't know when the time comes. this heavy -likely unnoticed weight- pursues the fool -and the wise- wherever he/she goes:
71. An evil deed, like newly-drawn milk, does not turn (suddenly); smouldering, like fire covered by ashes, it follows the fool.
now comes 63, which suggests a possible fool/non-fool limit:
63. The fool who knows his/her foolishness, is wise at least so far. But a fool who thinks himself wise, he-she is called a fool indeed.
acknowledging one's own foolishness is wise "at least so far." this is not really wisdom, but a hopeful sign. obviously, there are degrees. one can be a total fool, or the least-so-far that understand his/her condition, which automatically makes him/her a bit different.
could the wise ever become a fool?
once the wise thinks he's wise there lies an opening for foolishness (as long as the wise's confidence doesn't make him/her less wise by ignoring his/her own potential fallibility, thus opening up the dreaded possibility of self-delusion).
let's problematize 63. we take it that the wise knows, but how much? the wise needs to know (that he knows), but for knowledge's sake, he must leave room for doubt. why? because we're fallible.
infallibility is not a trait of the wise, (who by principle keeps his/her fallibility in check). rather it's the fool who believes himself to be infallible. finally, it seems that being wise is not so much thinking it but doing it. when it comes to talking, the wise should not boast being wise -nor fool.