"Day One — There is Wisdom in Foolishness (Sunday) To quote William Blake again (he was a holy fool), 'If the fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise.' In other words, as in every aspect of the Christian life, there is telos to what we do and who we are. Telos is a Greek word used by Aristotle as well as by St. Paul. It means 'purpose, goal.' Know this now before you go any further: fools are fools not only because it is the way to follow Christ but also because it is the way to truth. The world can see a holy fool only as a tragic figure, crushed despite his goodness, but we know differently. The fool's way is the way to a blessed future as he or she is slowly becoming what has been promised and what we yearn for: In days to come the mountain of the Lord's home shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills, all the nations shall stream to it. Many people shall come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.' For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples: they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isa.2: 2-4)
"Day Two — There Is Strength in Powerlessness (Monday) Essential in any spiritual practice of holy foolishness is acknowledging that the only lasting power and strength in the world and in our lives rest in God — the God who came as a baby in a manger. Is there any greater example of powerlessness than the human infant? Of all the ways for God to enter the world, that is the one God chose, demonstrating the theme for this day: there is strength in powerlessness. The theme is emphasized in the readings from the Gospels, showing that there is no greater holy fool than Jesus himself, as is clear not just in the birth of Jesus, but in his passion, too. He provides the ultimate example for our lives.
"Day Three — There Is Joy in Forgiveness (Tuesday) Holy foolishness cannot exist without a profound and radical sense of forgiveness in our lives — a true 'letting go.' This becomes a sense of relief that is sometimes powerfully experienced with tears and dancing and shouting when you repent of your sins. As one contemporary author who studied holy fools put it, 'As I continued to meet holy fools, I noticed that they viewed repentance as the essential curriculum for spiritual kindergarten, college, and postdoctoral studies.' Allow yourself to be open to experiences and emotions such as these on day three; they are familiar to holy fools of all Christian traditions. As St. Antony of Egypt once said, 'Here comes the time when people will behave like madmen, and if they see anybody who does not behave like that, they will rebel against him and say: "You are mad" — because he is not like them.'
"Day Four — The Humble Are Blessed (Wednesday) In the Gospels, several of the Beatitudes are teachings of Jesus that we don't — can we admit this! — readily or easily believe. I'm talking about 'blessed are the meek,' and so on. We think of them as somewhat irrelevant to daily life in the real world, or as something for a future age when the world has changed from what it is. But when St. Paul says, 'The message of the cross is folly for those who are on the way to ruin, but for those of us who are on the road to salvation it is the power of God' (I Cor. 1:18), he's making a point about what is real. It turns out that much of the 'real world' stuff that we've been told we should preoccupy ourselves with is not, in fact, real at all. This is a day to pray on this theme and seek to create in our lives the absence of vanity and egotism that otherwise fill more of everyday life around us.
"Day Five — The Pure in Heart Are Blessed (Thursday) This day is all about treasuring what is foolish because now we accept and realize that the fool is one who has come to see life as it really is. A fool is able to live life to the fullest because of what she understands and who she is becoming. No longer is human existence all about surviving or competition. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche grew to hate Christianity and what it taught when he fashioned ideas of the superman and will-to-power. He couldn't stand the Christian's willingness to be weak. He found it pitiable, not something to be imitated. But Nietzsche was wrong. The saints are right. As the Bible says, Christ 'emptied himself' (Phil. 2:7) for our sake. That's our model, and that's what we try to do, in following him.
"Along the way, we avoid self-delusion and chasing after things (stuff, people, love, reputation, fame) — these efforts that fill the will-to-have, will-to-be, and any other process by which people are taught to self-fulfill. The holy fool knows life more simply, closer to its real essence, and, as a result, more beautifully. One contemporary author sums this up nicely when she imagines the people who don't get it: 'How foolish to be an unholy fool.'
"Day Six — Folly Is Another Name for Righteousness (Friday) Why is this theme essential? Because spiritual practice is never something we do just for us, in the quiet of our house or room. Our lives are inextricably intertwined with the lives of others naturally, but we also are supposed to deliberately connect them and help each other. Even (or especially!) holy foolishness can help the people around us.
"Why is folly another name for righteousness? Because it is foolish in the eyes of the world to do what brings us no earthly reward. It is crazy to spend time and focus energy on what brings us no glory. That's because the world assigns meaning to what the holy fool knows is without meaning. When we are foolish, what we do begins to resemble art — with unexpected revelations of beauty, new perceptions of what's real. As Thomas Merton once appreciated in the playwright Eugene Ionesco, 'If one does not understand the usefulness of the useless and the uselessness of the useful, one cannot understand art.' And as St. Paul once said, 'Since in the wisdom of God the world was unable to recognize God through wisdom, it was God's own pleasure to save believers through the folly of the gospel' (1 Cor. 1:21).
"Day Seven — True Wisdom Brings Peace and Justice (Saturday) This is difficult, and that's why it comes last. It is difficult because a holy fool tries never to be self-righteous. Concerns for oneself undermine anything else that a holy fool might do. Still, a holy fool is often a prophet, and deliberately so — so the line is narrow to walk. As you grow in wisdom, remember the book of Wisdom and how the people complain about the 'righteous man': 'Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law, and accuses us of sins against our training. He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord' (Wisd. 2:12). The righteous one is not wrong — doing what is right even when it's uncomfortable is the epitome of holy foolishness. We have to remember who we are serving. Also, a holy fool knows the truth of what poet Wendell Berry has recently said: 'A change of heart or of values without a practice is only another pointless luxury of a passively consumptive way of life.' "