One of my favorite books is The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, so naturally I also enjoy both movies based off of this work. In the more recent adaptation, Daisy (played by Carey Mulligan) was speaking with Nick Caraway (played by Tobey Maguire) about her daughter. She remembering asking the nurse if it was a girl and saying, “I hope she’ll be a fool; that’s the best thing a girl could be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” As a Buddhist, we are told the power of insight and spiritual knowledge; to be a wise man but not in the sense of being a know-it-all. I understand being a wise man as understanding the order of the Universe and navigating it in a way that spreads love, reducing personal suffering, and doesn’t produce negativity. But the way I also understand beautiful fool, I am wondering if there is another way.
They say ignorance is bliss, and for me I don’t enjoy being thought the fool or ignorant in any situation. If I feel less than knowledgeable, I seek out the answers to be on shore footing if I can. It’s not about being right or wrong, or being the smartest person in the room; I like knowledge and our capacity to understand and expand our minds. But I also appreciate those that are slightly behind mentally. To be able to exist not really knowing all the ills of this world is something I envy. I mean, I have a lot of facts and figures in my head, but digging through my mental rolodex isn’t easy or always successful. Sometimes I wonder what the purpose is of having a mind so full of information, with some of it being useless and others possibly destructive.
What I feel Daisy was referring to is the idea that pretty sells and open eyes reveal painful truths. As a beautiful women, you have the opportunity to catch the eye of many men. You have the opportunity to choose a man who can set you up in a lifestyle that doesn’t require anything other than existing. Of course this was more so true in the time frame F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote the book, but I understand how that kind of life is still possible today, albeit much harder to find. Being a beautiful fool isn’t saying being unintelligent per se, I see it almost as Siddhartha, before he became the Buddha.
Siddhartha was in his palace, living a wonderful life of fun, servants, and decadence. He in truth did not suffer because he was unaware of what suffering was. He was closed off from the truths of life and death, only suffering when the veil was lifted. He was a beautiful fool and not the worst for it until he knew he was a beautiful fool, and thus no longer one. That is where is suffering began, and his journey to make peace with his knew inside.
I can completely understand if no one agrees with me. It’s kind of an odd perspective to have but just looking at it on the surface, it just makes sense. We know about war, we know about death, we know about lost love, and all this knowledge brings fear, sadness and despair. You can’t un-see or un-know these things, only truly able to make peace with them to continue living. As Buddhist, we decide to go beyond just making peace with it, we look at the meaning and behind the meanings of these conditions, allowing the insight to reveal the ultimate truth, a truth I only know by concept and brief glimpses, but have yet to reach and be able to share with you fully. Part of me sees the ultimate truth lying with the beautiful fools, especially as they don’t have all the concepts and notions wreaking havoc in their brains. Are they the enlightened and lucky ones?
I don’t see them as lucky at all, they just are. They are able to exist without having to worry as much or be sad, a feet we are trying to attain ourselves. I don’t see them as enlightened, because enlightenment comes from transcending what you think you know as fact to what is, in a deeper and spiritual level. You need awareness of your condition and the strength and practice to understand and overcome to be enlightened. You need to know both sides of the coin to see there is no coin and there is every coin together. A fool only knows one side of things, and they are often times very happy and unencumbered, but while I would love to be that, I want it from practice and insight from the truth. I want to free myself with the Dharma that has already begun to open my eyes.
The suffering of existing only might not be known to the fool, but it is known to everyone else who is either trapped with their suffering, or actively trying to end it. The path to ending suffering is described by the Buddha in the Noble Eightfold paths, and in other religious practicing said in different ways. I, like many others can’t go back to being the fool, and honestly I wouldn’t wan to as I might have before. I know too much, and I’ve experiences the Dharma. I know what it’s like to be a fool (slightly as we all start off that way), and the difference, the magic and strength of the Buddha’s teachings can’t compare. I understand wanting to just exist and not have fear and all this knowledge of our material world, but we can’t look back, and there are tools to bring us comfort, compassionate and end all that causes of pain.
To be or not to be a beautiful fool.