Fool

Dr Ed Medley in Motley hat June 2009 (Photo by J. Waeber)I admire, and am charmed, by the motley-hued Fool; the witty Court Jester; the impudent buffoon, the persistent prankster; allowed and expected to make fun of the Court and the Monarch. I have wanted to be one much of my life. The Fool pranks and provokes, with impunity and regal protection, where mere commoners dare not.

Occasionally I have ventured impudent articles in the Motley View. Intrigued by Fools, I recently read (and reviewed) “A Fool’s Tale” by Nicole Galland, an entertaining novel about a Welsh Fool. I am reading Bernice Otto’s Fools are Everywhere an excellently-written, witty book about Fools and their their historical place in society around the world.

Fool in the window of atelier of a paper mache artisan in Venice- June 2009 (E Medley)Last month I enjoyed early morning reconnaissances in Venice, where I daily passed the atelier of a paper mache artist, in whose store window was an enchanting figurine of a Fool. I so much admired the piece that I wanted to buy it. But my impulse was downsized by the prudence of the household Chancellor of the Exchequer. Seeing no other pieces like it, I did find a charming watercolor of Harlequin, one of the principal characters of the Commedia dell’Arte

E Medley with Rigoletto, the Fool, at Rigoletto’s House in Mantua Italy, May 2009 (photo JEG)The Fool, as typified by the hunchback Fool Rigoletto, in the opera by Verdi, is often scorned, insulted and underestimated. Over the course of my career I have been called a fool and worse. While working on the failure investigation of the 1995 Sea Cliff Incident in San Francisco I was disparaged as “Dr. Columbo”, the seemingly bumbling, scruffy police detective portrayed by Peter Falk in the 1970’s TV Series Columbo. Like Columbo, I got to the bottom of the mystery (despite their being no bodies) and was ultimately, and sweetly, praised as Dr. Columbo by the same disparagers. Go figure… As I wrote in 2005, being a Columbo requires several essential qualities such as honesty. humor, patience, humility and excellent people and communication skills. Many of these same qualities are those essential to being a Fool too.

Many a firm could do with a Fool, methinks. Fools are often likable but misjudged and under-estimated. How can anybody so obviously having a good time be an effective worker? Serious business means serious money means serious people! But, that judgment is not as true as it seems. The Likable Fool is an essential, coveted gem in any business, as analyzed in a likable Harvard Business School paper: Competent Jerks, Lovable Fools, and the Formation of Social Networks.

Foolery is so interesting that – since I am only 60 – maybe I should back to school and do another PhD, this time on some impudent research into GeoFoolishness….

About Ed Medley

Ed Medley has been on a random walk for over 40 years. Many scribbles and snapshots at this site are from his vagabond transits; others are from his 40 years of international experience in geological and geotechnical engineering, academia, and mineral exploration prospecting.
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