Monthly Archives: February 2013

Play the Fool

I fell in a tangle of skis and poles—right in front of the crowd at the cross country ski center. Unhurt save for the sizable dent in my dignity, I finally managed to regain my feet and set off again. Skating away, flushed with equal parts exertion and embarrassment, I thought of the Fool, the first card in the Tarot deck.

The Fool is designated zero instead of one because it embodies infinite possibilities. With his face tilted to the sun and his faithful dog dancing at his feet, the Fool conveys an enviable openness to experience. His perch is definitely precarious, and sometimes this card is interpreted as a caution against risky, irresponsible behavior. I prefer see it positively, as encouragement to embrace new experiences by stepping out there and playing the Fool.

After I took my skis off that day, I considered the journey from beginner to expert in any given endeavor, whether it’s learning to speak a new language, play an instrument, or engage in a new sport. What it takes, I decided, is that willingness to play the Fool. Repeatedly. Which sums up my winter biathlon training thus far.

Small children seem to have an endless capacity for playing the Fool—how else are they to learn? When those same children become teenagers, though, it’s a different story. Learn to snowboard? Sure, if I can do it where no one will see me fall. Notice how the inevitable initial failure has been redefined as looking stupid, a fate worse than death. And it seems to me most of us carry that attitude from adolescence into adulthood. Pretty sad, right?

I’m not encouraging you to step off a cliff. If you’re approaching sixty, as I am, it’s probably a bad idea to take up hang gliding. But learning Italian? All that takes is a willingness to play the Fool, to endure some puzzled looks as you fumble your way from beginner to expert speaker. How about playing the viola? Who cares if your family members cover their ears for a year or three? So get out there, play the Fool and learn something new! And stay tuned for updates on my biathlon training.

My novel, Yard Sale, is available at Amazon.