Thursday, April 1, 2010

April 1, April's Fools

"Laughter is certainly one of the pleasures evoked when parents read to their offspring about the moronic behavior of the Stupids in the series of picture books written by James Allard and illustrated by James Marshall. In the first of these (The Stupids Step Out), the Stupid family readies for their day’s travels by assembling at the bottom of the stairs and then mounting the bannister (they are stunned when they can’t slide up); they then join in the bathtub (but do not add water since this would get their clothes wet). As both the pictures and other incidents suggest, these characters are genuinely stupid; and stories like these offer a zany liberation from the humdrum of everyday behavior and logic.

"Stupidity, however, can be a kind of wisdom in the folk tradition where the fool figure often has a conspicuous place. Among the best of these may be Nasrudin, the legendary wise fool of the Muslim tradition, whose stories have been collected in various books by Idries Shah. There is, for example, the story about the time Nasrudin opened a lecture agency and was asked by a group of people to send a wit to entertain them. Unable to quite accommodate their request, Nasrudin sent, instead, two half-wits. . .

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